§ 3.56 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I must first express thanks to the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, for having brought this matter forward to-day, and for the very wide-ranging way in which he spoke to it. In fact, so wide-ranging was it that for once we have had a Statement, much of which could have fitted in quite admirably with the general theme of the debate initiated by the noble Viscount. The wide-ranging nature of his speech was matched also by the wide-ranging nature of his views. I suppose he worked on the basis that if one is to open one's mouth for goodies, one might as well open it as wide as possible. The first thought I had on hearing the long list of items on which the noble Viscount wishes Governments to spend money, if not to-day no later than the day after to-morrow, was that it is just as well that there is to be a very considerable income to the country from North Sea oil, because the noble Viscount has sought to mortgage it for some considerable time ahead. 930 However, his speech is none the worse for having done that.
My Lords, the second matter to which I should refer immediately is the maiden speech which we have had from the noble Lord, Lord Glenkinglas. It is a special pleasure that a debate of this importance should have been the subject of a maiden speech from one who was recently Secretary of State for Scotland. It is not because I anticipate that there will be many occasions when I will be disagreeing with the noble Lord that I ask him to make it a regular part of his life to take part in the debates in your Lordships' House, particularly those on Scottish affairs. I am sure that all of us, wherever we sit in the House, will always be glad to listen to what he has to say, and to enjoy his speeches as we have done to-day. I also look forward to the maiden speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Mackie of Benshie and Lord Erskine of Rerrick, to whom only the traditions of the House prevent me from referring as my noble friends, because both are friends of very long standing indeed. I do not necessarily expect that I will agree with much of what they say either, although the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie and I have, on occasions, found ourselves in agreement, generally when the subject was to attack the Tories. I am not so sure whether the noble Lord still finds the same enthusiasm for that ploy nowadays, however. Time will tell.
The Scottish economy has recovered well during the past few months from the period of three-day working earlier in the year. Total unemployment is now lower than at any time since 1969, although the current level of 78,000 is still high in comparison to the 50,300 figure achieved by the previous Labour Government in June, 1966. However, unemployment, as measured on a seasonally-adjusted basis, is currently falling, and the number of unfilled vacancies is very high—both suggesting that there is a strong and rising demand for labour in Scotland. Indeed, as the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso said, the Scottish economy appears to be enjoying one of its fullest periods of expansion since the war.
One noticeable facet of the situation has been the improvement in the position of Scotland relative to the rest of 931 Great Britain. During the 1971/73 period, the Scottish unemployment rate averaged 1.7 times the corresponding rate in Great Britain. Since the beginning of this year there has been a considerable improvement in Scotland's relative posilion, and last month the Scottish figure was 1.56 times the Great Britain rate. I do not want anyone to take from that fact that I have any satisfaction at the Scottish rate being higher than the Great Britain rate. I look forward in the not too distant future to the situation being the other way round when the percentages may go the other way.
The most recent C.B.I. Industrial Trends Survey also suggested that Scotland was faring better than Great Britain as a whole. Fewer firms were working below full capacity in Scotland and there was a strong upward trend in both manufacturing orders and output over the first quarter. Investment prospects are also marginally better in Scotland, with more firms expecting to increase rather than decrease investment over the next year. But, my Lords, good as this may be, it is by no means nearly enough. The sustained growth of the Scottish economy will require a very much higher rate of investment than in the past, and it is to be hoped that industry in Scotland will take full advantage of the investment opportunities now available.
It is of the greatest importance in a situation as difficult as the present one to exploit all one's strength. Transport is something we are very good at as a nation, and in selecting transport as the main theme of the wide-ranging debate on the economy the noble Viscount has shown both discrimination and understanding. Transport is the flux of a modern economy. It gives it its flexibility and makes possible the vast range of permutations which make a commonplace of its intracacies and sophistication. Transport—or, to widen it a little, communications—is the common element. In tackling the problems of North Sea oil the single common element, the theme that ran through all problems, was that of communications, whether it was service boats to drilling rigs, helicopters for exploration personnel, rail for the hugh quantities of aggregate, telecommunications, air services or whatever.
I should like now to turn to roads, since this is the field in which the Secre- 932 tary of State spends more money directly than anywhere else, as the noble Lord, Lord Glenkinglas, will be well aware. There are over 29,000 miles of public road in Scotland: 1,980 are trunk roads, for which the Secretary of State has direct responsibility; 4,500 miles are principal roads where the grant is paid at the rate of 75 per cent.; 10,600 miles are classified roads; and 12,000 miles are unclassified roads. Expenditure by highway authorities on the last two groups is supported through rate support grant. Since 1956, when the Secretary of State took over responsibility for roads, Government expenditure has increased from £1.7 million in 1956-57 to about £50 million this year.
Successive Governments have stuck to two main aims: the provision of a modern network of roads throughout the industrial belt, and a programme of major river crossings. Anyone who drives around Central Scotland now can see for himself how much has been accomplished already, and it will be only a few years now before the dual carriageway network, both trunk and motorway, connects Dundee, Perth, Stirling, Edinburgh, Glasgow, right through that city to Greenock and Southwards to the M6 at Carlisle. Ayr, Kilmarnock and Dumbarton will also be connected. Besides joining these particular places the network serves all the industrial areas which surround them, and there will be not many places in Central Scotland which will be more than a few miles from access to the network of new roads throughout Britain.
The main river crossings have been built: the Clyde Tunnel, the Forth and Tay Bridges, the Kingston Bridge in Glasgow and the Erskine Bridge. Work on the next group has started or is imminent: Ballachulish and Kessock and the crossing of the Cromarty Firth. These bridges help to shorten many journeys, and there is already discussion about other crossings which will bring similar benefits—the Dornoch Firth, Kyle of Lochalsh and the Kyles of Bute.
There are, of course, still many frustrations. Not the least for us in the Scottish Office is the need required by the economic situation to cut back the level of capital expenditure on roads in the next few years. This will impose some delay 933 on the completion of the industrial network, but we intend to do all we can to ensure that the delay is not too long. We have, as is known, taken steps to isolate from the cuts the expenditure needed to improve the roads which support North Sea oil development. I should perhaps take this opportunity to allay a misapprehension which may arise in the minds of some of your Lordships, as it has arisen elsewhere. To obtain a cut of 20 per cent. in capital expenditure during the financial year 1974-75 on road improvements not related to oil development, a much higher reduction than 20 per cent. has had to be imposed on the planning of new schemes which can be allowed to start this year. This is because the bulk of the financial provision for 1974-75, and indeed for much of the following year as well, is required to meet the continuing cost of schemes already in progress; hence the reduction has had to be found in the sums earmarked for the start of new schemes, with a resultant severe cutting down of the number of new starts which can be allowed. The Secretary of State has, however, been able so to arrange matters that the exemption of oil-related road schemes from the reduction in expenditure is not in itself cutting into the rest of the Scottish roads programme.
The current programme was outlined in the 1970 White Paper Scottish Roads in the 1970s. It foreshadowed the completion of the network in the main industrial belt and the progressive improvement of the long-distance routes leading from it to the other parts of Scotland. The most notable single development has been the commitment to rebuild the A9 from Perth to the Cromarty Firth, but we are also doing a good deal of work on the improvement of the route from Dundee to Aberdeen.
Next year will see a great change in highway administration. With the reorganisation of local government in May the responsibiltiy for all non-trunk roads in Scotland will lie with the new regional and islands authorities. These will be more powerful authorities, with greater resources than the present ones and they will deal with all the roads in their areas. We have it in mind that the system of financial support should recognise this, and be changed so that the new authorities will not need to be so dependent on consultation with the Scottish Develop 934 ment Department on principal roads as they are now. The idea is that all the grants should be channelled through rate support grant, so that there will not need to be the same central control as there has to be on the present system of ad hoc grants. The change will, however, be greater than this alone. The new regional and islands authorities will have all the local transport responsibilities, including responsibility for public transport, the infrastructure associated with it and grants to assist the provision of rural bus and ferry services. For the first time local authorities will be able to consider their local transport requirements as a whole, including the improvement of the road system and the support and improvement of public transport.
We intend to introduce, as part of the overall planning process an annual document called Transport Policies and Programmes. This will cover the whole of each regional and islands authority's responsibilities in the field of local transport and require them to plan future expenditure with an eye to the interplay of public transport, the use of the car and traffic management schemes. This procedure is now being discussed with the local authoritity associations and, when adopted, should result in a better balance of expenditure between the various means of meeting the needs of people to move around the area in which they live—second best to shifting the centre of government to Wick.
It has been accepted by successive Governments that the best way to improve shipping services is to introduce wherever possible modern efficient roll-on/roll-off vehicle ferries operating from purpose-built terminals over the shortest practicable sea crossings. Much remains to be done, of course, but good progress has already been made, as those who use these services will know. The policy now being followed is to pay a subsidy for services to small and remote places where revenue cannot be expected to meet operating costs. The Government expect to pay £845,000 in this way during the present financial year to the two operating companies with which we have undertakings for the Western Isles and for the inter-island services in Orkney and Shetland. In addition, some £316,000 will be paid as the direct Government 935 share before rate support grant is calculated of grants for ferry services made by local authorities under the Transport Act 1968.
There is also very substantial Government financial assistance towards the cost of providing terminals for the roll-on/ roll-off services to the major islands. In 1973-74 grants amounted to about £1. million and this year we expect to pay between £1.4 million and £1.5 million. An example of what is being accomplished with Government help is that our grants and loans for the new terminals at Scrabster and Stromness for the Pentland Firth crossing will amount to £1,200,000 out of a total cost of £1,300,000. You cannot get very much nearer to 100 per cent. than that unless you go the whole hog. Major services which have already been modernised or where work is now in progress are at Ardrossan/Brodick, Gourock/Dunoon, Islay, Oban/Craignure, Oban/Lochboisdale, Ullapool/Stornaway, Pentland Firth, and also Aberdeen/Lerwick where work is about to start. In addition, a number of small modern vehicle ferries have been brought into use. I should like to say how well the shipping companies, harbour authorities and local authorities have responded to these changes and worked together to bring them about.
Finally, I must say something about shipping charges. The Government regret as much as any user of the services or resident in the islands the fact that rising costs, which have their effect on all sectors of the economy, have made necessary increases in charges for the services operated by all the companies serving the islands. I must point out that Government financial assistance for these services in the two forms I described earlier has far outstripped any increase in charges and has gone up threefold over the past five years, and the total this year is expected to be very nearly £2,600,000. I think noble Lords must agree that that is a very considerable advance.
I come to railways. With public support to passenger services at £14 million in Scotland last year, we obviously cannot say that there will never be any more closures. But there has not been a major closure for some time. Closures take the publicity. Noteworthy developments are too often overlooked. One exception, 936 however, was the completion of the West Coast main line electrification scheme, the start for which was authorised by the Labour Government in 1970. This new service provides not only seven trains each way daily between Glasgow and London, with a journey time of only five hours—and as against what the noble Viscount had to say about the air services, it works equally well both ways—but also fast and conveniently timed services from Scotland to industrial centres like the Midlands, Manchester and Liverpool. Additional passenger services to the North include a new day-time through service each way between Inverness and London. The Glasgow South suburban electrified network has also been extended to Hamilton and Lanark.
Apart from extended passenger services in the North, additional facilities have been provided at Invergordon and Aberdeen for bulk freight traffic, and Alness station, closed in 1960, has been re-opened. The possibility of establishing a freightliner terminal at Inverness and other suggestions for improvements to the services to the North are being examined by British Rail. Approval has been given for the first stage, involving expenditure of £11 million, for major track rationalisation and resignalling in the Edinburgh area, and the Government have under consideration ambitious proposals by the Greater Glasgow Passenger Transport Executive for extension of the rail system in their area.
The Government's recognition of the railways' important role was recognised in the Statement on May 13 in another place by my right honourable friend that there would be no closures of substance in 1974, and by the publication last week of the Railways Bill, to which the noble Viscount referred. This is, of course, not the occasion for a discussion on the legislation, but noble Lords will be aware that the Bill's provisions provide ample evidence of the Government's acceptance of the railways valuable contribution to the social, environmental and industrial aspects of the nation's life.
The Government believe that railways should make a full contribution to the movement of freight which is suited to rail. A joint initiative has been launched with the Freight Transport Association and some 100 major firms to seek additional worthwhile freight consignments 937 for rail. This initiative is supported by the provision in the Bill far payment of grants to potential rail customers towards the costs of providing freight loading facilities. Many firms either based in or operating in Scotland are included in the examination of rail freight possibilities, and the proposed grants will be available in Scotland.
British Rail are planning major new developments in the provision of high performance long distance passenger services in the next few years in the shape of high speed diesel trains and Advanced Passenger Trains. The Government are at present considering the Railway Board's proposals for investing in high speed diesel trains for the East Coast main line and constructing prototype Advanced Passenger Trains which would be used initially on the West Coast main line. Even to maintain the Scottish rail system at roughly its present size will involve considerable cost, but that cost the Government are prepared to bear. It would be unrealistic to envisage much expansion, but the Government will continue to give every consideration to proposals for improvement of the Scottish network.
Perhaps I should now say something about air services. One of the most valuable contributions to the aviation field in Scotland in recent times has been the Civil Aviation Authority's recent Report entitled Air Transport in the Scottish Highlands and islands. It gives a comprehensive picture of the air transport situation in that region and contains a good deal of statistical information that has never been published before. It is all the more valuable because of the increasing importance of Highlands and Islands services and airports in the North Sea oil context. The Authority has suggested that if loss-making services are to be subsidised in future my right honourable friend should be responsible for making the grants. The Government are considering the Report and their views will be made known as soon as possible.
It is well recognised that developments along the East Coast and up into far Northern waters as a result of North Sea oil operations have forged ahead at an unprecedented rate, and the commercial prospects for services in that area are being transformed. Scottish Airways 938 have on the whole responded well to the challenge, and they are now considering urgently what more needs to be done to meet an escalating demand. They provide a remarkably reliable service. In spite of all the problems that an airline encounters in operating quite large aircraft into airports with strictly limited facilities, on most routes they achieve over 95 per cent. regularity on scheduled flights with an average loss of time per flight of just over ten minutes. I am sure noble Lords will agree that in these very exacting conditions this is a most commendable record. After all, we are rather inclined merely to concern ourselves with air services when we happen to find we are diverted from Edinburgh to Abbotsinch or occasionally to Prestwick.
An important concern must be to establish arrangements which will ensure the efficient organisation of the ground support systems, and particularly, of course, airports. In giving close and urgent study to this, we shall have very close regard to the need to move with the times and to be able to react quickly in art industry notable for its rapid rate of change. When this is associated with dramatic North Sea developments in the last two to three years—and it is difficult to recognise that it is as short a time that—and particularly with the very rich strikes 100 miles or more off our most Northerly island group, the problems can become acute.
Because of the special need to develop the infrastructure for North Sea oil, successive Governments have taken the exceptional course of making grants to the Civil Aviation Authority for the improvement of airports which they own and operate in the Highlands and Islands. The previous Government sanctioned a grant for the lengthening and strengthening of the runway at Inverness to make it suitable for B.A.C. 1-11 jet aircraft. I hope that work on this will be completed within the next few months. In a visit to Shetland shortly after we took office, my honourable friend announced a grant for the improvement of Sumburgh airport in the Shetlands. As a parallel measure, British Airways are making a special purchase of HS 748 aircraft for use on the Shetlands route. and this, together with the aerodrome developments, will result in a very big improvement in the services, which many 939 of your Lordships know fell last year to a regularity as low as 83 per cent.
North Sea oil operations have of course brought the most rapid increase in air traffic at Aberdeen Airport. The number of passengers has more than doubled during the past four years and is expected at least to double again by the early 1980s. This growth rate is placing a severe strain on the existing very limited terminal and other facilities at the airport. An extension to the terminal building was opened in April of this year, but this cannot be anything more than a temporary palliative. The question of the ownership of the airport and its future development is now under very urgent consideration. I recognise that the present situation of uncertainty is highly unsatisfactory and that a speedy decision must be arrived at. An early decision is also desirable at Glasgow on the possible take-over of the airport by the British Airports Authority and on the need for new development. I can say no more at the moment than that proposals there are being very urgently considered.
The possibility of establishing one major airport to serve the whole central belt of Scotland has been ventilated on many occasions, and notwithstanding what I or anybody else may say it will continue to be raised; but, as others have said before me and as I am sure others will say after me, we do not believe that a new central Scottish airport on a green field site is either a practicable or an economic proposition at the present time.
§ LORD POLWARTH
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves the question of airports, I wonder whether he could assure us that the question of the ownership and future of Aberdeen Airport is being treated really seriously? It does not appear that very much progress has been made since the present Government took Office.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I can confirm that the major airports are all being urgently considered, and I think that we shall be able to take a decision in sufficiently short a time to make the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, quite envious of the progress made in comparison with the previous Administration.
940 I would wish to touch on only one other point, that of the ports. The continuing increase in activity at our Scottish ports shows that they are responding well to the calls being placed on them by developments in overseas trade, particularly to Europe and to the rapidly expanding North Sea oil operations, which are demanding both in their time scales and their requirements. There has never been a time when so much work has been done in so many Scottish ports and harbours as in the last two or three years. The total value of projects just completed, under construction, or at the planning stage is well above £25 million. A considerable amount of this expenditure has been met by way of Government grants (for instance, in the case of Peterhead harbour), and loans, in the case of Aberdeen, Lerwick, and a few others. I think that your Lordships will agree that this represents a most commendable response in a most important, not to say highly traditional, transport sector.
As I have gone into fairly substantial detail about things which are going on at the present time it has not been possible for me to cover the whole field on which the noble Viscount touched in moving his Motion. I shall be taking a very careful note during the succeeding discussion. I am not just being polite when I say that the Government welcome this debate and will make use of it, because I believe that it is our common attitude that everything possible should be done to move Scotland firmly into its proper place by the end of this century, and as early as possible in this century. We are planning Scotland's future, and if we plan it well we can be planning for a Scotland that is prosperous not just for a few years ahead, not just for a few decades ahead, but for a very long time ahead indeed. I am very grateful to the noble Viscount for moving this Motion.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ LORD MACKIE OF BENSHIE
My Lords, I was anxious to speak before the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. Now I feel rather churlish, because after he has detailed the enormous sums and enormous effort being expended to improve transport in Scotland, one feels that the debate which my noble friend initiated is unnecessary. But I must say that 941 all the expenditure still results in an awful lot of complaints from people who actually travel around Scotland, and have business interests particularly in the far North. I must declare that Caithness transport means a great deal to me, personally, and to my noble friend Lord Thurso, in that we are engaged in manufacturing industries there, and also trying to promote small manufacturing industries, with a little success. We know very well the difficulties that occur in the promotion of manufacture or, indeed, of doing business in an area which is not fully served with all kinds of communications.
My noble friend has already mentioned that if you want to fly to Wick for a four or five hour business discussion you can do so in a day, but if our executives in the Wick area want to go to London they need three days away from business. The transport service there is not improving, because some years ago we had an early morning service out of Wick which was of immense benefit to us. I do not know why more people did not use it, but with the expansion that is bound to come this kind of thing needs looking at again. It is absolute nonsense that a man should have to spend three days away to do one piece of business.
The question of executive travel is also important in the Northern areas. If you do not have ease of travel, and reasonably cheap travel out, then you cannot get the right quality of man or executive to stay there if you want to promote industry in a difficult area. It is enormously expensive to travel from Wick to London. In fact, your Lordships would be horrified if you knew what it costs you to listen to my noble friend Lord Thurso and myself—although, pound for pound, it is cheaper for me!
I think that before the expansion of the oil business the Government must get their priorities right on the main arteries. They must improve greatly the road from Inverness to Wick, and also the terrible road from Perth to Inverness. I know that a great deal is being done and is projected, but it is absolutely vital that the Government make it their main priority. If the arteries are right, then you can put up with a little less well-made roads going out. I have many examples of this. We export Scottish 942 fruit, strawberries, down to Liverpool and Manchester. It is cheaper to do that now than it was some years ago simply because of the new road system, the M.6, and the development of new markets where lorries do not have to wait for hours before they can unload. The result is that we can now send down overnight a lorryload of four tons of fruit and visit a market in Liverpool and in Manchester, drop off our fruit and come home, and the cost per pound is actually dropping a little. This is a practical example arising from the improvement of the main arteries of communication. Unfortunately, it is mostly in England, although I must confess that it is a great help from Stirling on. But we need the same sort of development to Caithness.
I hate to think what will happen when the oil development gets going in Caithness—as it will get going—simply because it is an area with an infrastructure for 30,000 people. Although at the moment development is taking place in Shetland, Orkney, the Aberdeenshire coast, and of course Invergordon, sooner or later the area must be used. To do it I would plead with the Minister to exercise all his powers to get the money for the main arteries. I am afraid that road transport will still be the most important feature of any development. We in the glass firm there can get a private enterprise firm, which is operating an integrated system throughout the country, to deliver in Somerset and the West Country within three days. I think that for the expenditure of subsidies to the various firms in the North we should get a better service.
Very curious things happen. I have been in touch with the N.F.U. and with a few convenors, and find that in the island of Arran, for example, a subsidised firm operates a day return ticket from Brodick to Ardrossan but it will not issue tickets before 12 o'clock. That seems to be a curious way of helping the public. If they want to save money, perhaps they should not issue them until 5 o'clock and then nobody would use the service. Little restrictions like these annoy people much more than the actual cost of the fare. I also understand that this firm, which is wholly subsidised, is charging Arran about £10.50 to transport a ton of hay, £8.40 to transport a ton of feeding-stuffs and £5£50 to take a beast to the mainland. All these costs add enormously to the 943 already rising costs of agriculture—and agriculture is clearly in a crucial position at this time.
My Lords, the people in the good land are losing money on beef and I do not like to think what is to happen to the people in the hills, which Government after Government have recognised as a reservoir for the production of calves for the fatteners, if transport costs keep rising at the same time as prices are falling. I wonder whether the money which successive Governments have spent on subsidising various firms is being spent in the best way. Perhaps they should look at agriculture and should subsidise the transport of individual items. There is no question that the hills of Scotland could carry infinitely more cows and raise infinitely more calves than they are doing at present, if the winter food could be supplied—and winter food, of course, involves transport. At the present moment there may be a slight embarrassment about the amount of beef, but I do not think that this position can continue if beef remains as unprofitable as it is to-day. The Government should look at the question of a direct subsidy on the transport costs of agricultural feed, instead of the all-over subsidy which to farmers often appears wasted.
The question of roads for tourism is enormously important to Scotland, as well as to the people who regard the Highlands as one of the last areas left in Europe where they can find a little peace and get a little refreshment away from the industrial society in which they live. I know that the Highlands roads are heavily subsidised but the Government must continue to expand the network, because the tourist industry is bringing ever-increasing amounts of money to the Highlands, and the foreign exchange is assisting our balance of payments position. I am tempted to ask a number of other questions. but I appreciate that many other noble Lords are due to speak. I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. who has assisted me in the past, to look carefully at a number of relatively small points.
We have another interesting example of self-help—in this case assisted by the Highlands Board—concerning the short crossing of the Pentland Firth from John 944 O'Groats. Some Orkneymen bought a boat, assisted by the Highlands Board, and found that there was not enough depth at John O'Groats. These gentlemen made an extension out of an old tank, added a boom to extend the pier, floated it across the Pentland Firth and erected it themselves. That is the kind of self-help which has had the effect of helping to provide a good tourist service, which the Minister might well examine, as well as the major harbours with their roll-on roll-off facilities. I beg him to keep the arterial concept in mind. If the main arteries are right—I am really talking about roads—then you have a chance of prosperity in the veins running off and at the end, and private enterprise could then take advantage, as has been done by the firm which I quoted in improving service to industry in the North.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ LORD HOY
My Lords, it is my pleasant duty to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, on his maiden speech. I have known him a long time, both in another place and in your Lordships' House. I am bound to say that I knew his brother more intimately because his brother, John, and I served together for six years as Parliamentary Secretaries at the Ministry of Agriculture. Indeed I can say that we did it quite deliberately because we refused to be moved to other Departments. The family which the noble Lord represents has a very distinguished record in farming in the North of Scotland and their contribution to society as a whole is not to be underestimated. So we welcome the noble Lord to your Lordships' House as a representative of a family which has brought great credit to Scotland as a whole. On this occasion I will not dispute some of the things he said, but will give him an assurance that a little later we might not be seeing eye to eye. On behalf of your Lordships may I say we were grateful to him for his contribution. We certainly look forward to his next one.
My Lords, one thing that disturbs me about changes in Government—if changes disturb anyone—are the views taken up by noble Lords and Members of another place immediately they change from one side to another. I thought this was 945 typified this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, who I think now has departed. I am sure he will not mind my saying in his absence that, three months after being Minister of State for Scotland, to come along and say to my noble friend, "What are you doing about this problem?" can only merit the reply, "What were you doing all the time you were Minister of State?" To raise a question of this kind does not impress me; I am certain that it does not impress your Lordships' House. If that matter was so urgent for such a long period, then the noble Lord should have dealt with it when he was Minister of State for Scotland. What he ought not to do is to come along three months afterwards and ask my noble friend what he has done about it in that period. I am not impressed by that type of argument, whether it comes from my side or from the other side of the House.
The noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, whose speeches I always enjoy and with whom I am very friendly, always surprises me by the number of times that he gets complaints. He was talking about the A.9 development. I do not talk about the A.9—I use it. Many people talk about it but do not use it. I repeat, I use it. The noble Viscount said that the A.9 has been in this position for the last forty years. Those were the words he used, and he wants to know from my noble friend what he has been doing for the last three months!
§ VISCOUNT THURSO
My Lords, may I correct the noble Lord? I said since the 1940s. The 1940s finished with 1949, so it is not quite forty years. But there are sections of the A.9 which he and I. who both use it, know have not changed since 1949.
§ LORD HOY
My Lords, I do not want to argue about a year or two, but from 1940 to 1974 is 34 years, and I do not know why the noble Viscount wanted to interrupt over a matter of six years. All I am saying to the noble Viscount is this: he may be absolutely neutral in his argument, but his most distinguished father was responsible for this road over a long period of time.
§ LORD HOY
But he was in a very dis- 946 tinguished position, and even if, as the noble Viscount says, his distinguished father had the position for only 12 months, he has no right to come here and ask my noble friend to do something in a quarter of the time for which his noble father occupied the post. That is something one ought not to do. I want the A.9 to be put right very quickly, and I want to ask a specific question of my noble friend about the A.9. I was told quite recently, indeed through the columns of the Scotsman newspaper and by a picture, that the bridge at Carr Bridge collapsed about a fortnight ago. That is a tremendously important link, and as one who uses this road frequently in the course of a year, I want to know what is being done to put that right.
§ LORD BURTON
My Lords, perhaps I may tell the noble Lord briefly that it was the obsolete bridge that collapsed, but that there is a Bailey bridge which he can use.
§ LORD HOY
My Lords. I know it is the obsolete bridge that collapsed. With all due respect, that is not great information. I should not have thought it was the Bailey bridge which was collapsing as it was put up to replace the obsolete one which has collapsed. All I as a user want to know is—and I know what the noble Lord's responsibility is in that part of the world—what is being done to put it right so that when the summer traffic comes, and it is now coming, provision will have been made to meet the needs of the people in that area. I should have thought that the noble Lord would have wanted to support me in putting that question. I am sorry he does not.
§ LORD BURTON
My Lords, I can give the answer very briefly. This bridge was under construction. It was the old bridge that collapsed while being demolished, but it had already become obsolete. A new bridge is under construction which should have been completed before the onset of tourist traffic, but owing to the steel difficulties it has been somewhat delayed. However, in two or three months' time if the noble Lord comes up he will be able to go over the new bridge.
§ LORD HOY
My Lords, I shall be up before then and I can only hope the bridge will be ready. When I look at a 947 picture in the Scotsman and find the people who are repairing the bridge lying in the river that does not encourage me. I want to know from my noble friend what steps are being taken to put that right. I find it difficult to follow the contribution which the noble Lord, Lord Glenkinglas (who was a very old friend of mine in the House of Commons) had to make. I thought it was a very modified one and I rather liked it. It was a little different from the speeches he used to deliver in the other place, and perhaps because of that I liked it all the more. The only exception I took to it was when he accused the Government of using petrol—and I think these were his words—as a "milch cow". This Government do not use petrol as a "milch cow". All we can do is to reflect the prices charged to us by the Arab States and no Government can do anything other than that.
All I would say to the noble Lord is this—and he will correct me if I am wrong. I understand that he has some influence in the Arab world. Indeed, if I take the Press reports to be correct—and I do not know whether they are correct or not—the noble Lord is regarded as a kind of adviser to the Shah of Persia. I do not know whether or not that is true, but he will be able to tell me. If he is an adviser to the Shah, then all he could say to the Shah is, "You had better supply your oil to Great Britain at a cheaper price so that the Government of Britain will be able to reduce the price to its consumers."
§ LORD GLENKINGLAS
My Lords, am grateful to the noble Lord and I do not want to prolong the debate, but he is not looking at the matter in the way in which I know the Arab States are looking at it. They regard the tax that we put on petrol and the increasing taxes which the present Government are putting on petrol as probably the best excuse they have for putting up the price.
§ LORD HOY
With all due respect, my Lords, I know a little about the Middle East. having served there for a long time in difficult circumstances. The people 948 who supply us with the oil decided to put up the price very substantially, and whatever else happens, no matter which Government is in power—whether a Conservative or Labour Government—they have to pass that rise on to the consumer. What the noble Lord is not entitled to do is to come along to-day to your Lordships' House and say to this Government, "You ought to be doing something about it!" May I re-issue my hint to him. If he has this influence in the Middle East and if he is what he is reported to be, then I think he had better advise the Shah that he would be doing a very good thing for Britain if he reduced the price and then, even from a humble Back Bencher, I can give an assurance that we will be prepared to reduce the price to the consumers in Britain.
May I turn to one or two things that really matter in this debate. I should like to turn, if I may, to the road-building programme, because this is extremely important. One of the mistakes we have made in the past—and I do not excuse the Party which I support from that—is that very frequently we are too late in building the roads that we need. In other words, the development has taken place and we handicap industry by not having the roads to serve them. I should like to see more anticipatory knowledge about this matter with people looking to the roads that are needed. I remember that immediately after the war Germany decided that the one thing they ought not to do was to have a crash programme as we did in this country about building houses and so on, but to get the roads built and then to provide the factories and the houses which they were going to serve. If we are to have this difficult period in Scotland it is quite obvious that we are going to have a tremendous oil development, and we have to ensure that we have roads to meet the needs of the industries that will be developed. I should like my noble friend to give a thought to this particular point and to see whether it could be done.
I have already raised the question about the A.9 at Carrbridge. I raised it a little earlier than I anticipated, but having raised it may I repeat it because I want to ask about another development taking place in connection with the oil industry. I have no doubt that many of your Lordships will have read in the Scotsman 949 to-day that some agreement has been reached between the Shetland County Council and the oil industry. Your Lordships will know that I have an interest in this because I have a connection with Shell. But in the Scotsman this morning I read that some agreement has been reached, possibly yesterday, to the tune of £19,500.000. This agreement involves a considerable sum of money for that part of the world—though not more than we are entitled to—and it seems to me so important that I am certain your Lordships will want to know what is entailed in the agreement that has been reached, because it was not so very long ago that we gave approval to the Shetland County Council Bill which made this agreement possible.
I should like to turn very shortly, if I may, to a much more local matter; that is, the question of roads in the Edinburgh area. I shall not do anything to interfere with the case which I am sure is going to be made by the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, because for something like the last 19 or 23 years the noble Lord has been pursuing this matter of roads in Edinburgh and he has done it with great assiduity. I think he ought to be congratulated for that. I have no quarrel at all with him. I do not know whether the by-pass would make as great a contribution as the noble Lord suggests—I am not expert enough to make a judgment about it—but I am always willing to listen to him because he has argued it for such a great period of time that there surely must be something in it. What I am considering is that there was another plan put up in Edinburgh. As I understand it, two independent traffic studies have been carried out in and around Edinburgh in recent years—one in 1968 and the other in 1971—and while I would not say that they disprove the noble Lord's case, they do not really support it.
I am also interested in the final Report of the Edinburgh Planning and Transport Study Group in 1972, which proposed a complete by-pass of Edinburgh starting at the City on the A.90 road to the Forth Bridge, and continuing around the South side of the City on the proposed Musselburgh by-pass. Having looked at this project for some time, it seemed to me that this was a road with distinct possibilities. When the proposal was made, 950 a Working Party was set up and half its cost was borne by the Government. I cannot remember whether the total cost was £500,000 which was shared in two ways, or whether the Government paid the whole £500,000. But it cost a substantial amount and I understand that the Government came to the conclusion that the City of Edinburgh and its associates should take another look at the problem, because they did not altogether agree with it. This proposal was made some eight or nine months ago and it now rests with the Corporation. What I should like to know is: what has happened since then? Have the Corporation replied to the Government's suggestion that they should take another look and see what alternatives there might be? I am sure, whatever may be said about the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, that this would make a substantial contribution towards the relief of the traffic problem inside the City of Edinburgh, and I should like to ask the Government what they are going to do.
My Lords, having congratulated the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, on his maiden speech, I cannot sit down without saying a word about the noble Lord, Lord Erskine of Rerrick, who is to follow me. He and I have been associates over a very long period of time. He is, of course, a very distinguished financierwho managed a very distinguished bank in Scotland. He has risen to fame since then, because he and I are now joint vice-presidents of the greatest bank in Britain, the Trustee Savings Bank, and we have held these positions for a number of years. So I can only present my come pliments to him prior to his speech. I know that when he delivers it he will give pleasure to your Lordships' House.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ LORD ERSKINE OF RERRICK
My Lords, I rise to make my maiden speech with a full degree of that anxiety which I am sure is not unusual, particularly in the case of those who, like myself, have had no political experience. I was tempted to make a small contribution to this debate by the terms of the Motion proposed by the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, which struck me as being closely in line with an action of his very distinguished ancestor, Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster, the first Baronet of Ulbster. Sir John was a man very much ahead of his 951 times and, with the assistance of the parish ministers throughout Scotland, he projected and carried to finality, what he called "The First Statistical Account of Scotland". Sir John was a big enough person to be able to use words to suit his purpose and in a short foreword to the first volume, 176 years ago, he wrote this:By 'statistical' is meant an inquiry into the state of a country for the purpose of ascertaining the quantum of happiness enjoyed by its inhabitants and the means of its future improvement".It appears to me that the matters which your Lordships have been invited to debate are very material to that happiness which he was so anxious to quantify and, if possible, improve. Incidentally, among Sir John's many projects he raised and commanded the Caithness Fencibles, and in his exasperation over a residual number of parish ministers who were dragging their feet in the completion of the share of the great work allocated to them, he threatened to march his Fencibles to their manses if they did not "ante-up". gather he did not, in the end, need to do that.
Twenty years ago, when I retired from my business life, I was invited to add to my numerous public duties the chairmanship of the Transport Users' Consultative Committee for Scotland. I did all I could to be excused from this assignment, as I was not in harmony with what was being done. But, eventually, I succumbed to the pressure and promised to serve for a maximum of three years—which I did. As I anticipated, those three years were the most frustrating of my years of public service. I witnessed and participated in the abandonment of enormous assets in the shape of railway tracks and ancillary equipment which had been acquired and built at costs which could never be repeated.
I must make it clear to your Lordships that what I am saying must not in any way be taken as a criticism of the railway authorities or their officers, who are doing their duty strictly in accordance with their mandate—an impossible duty—to make profits in the conditions which had been permitted to develop in the absence of an all-comprehending transport plan. It was the same old routine, time and time again. We met to approve the closure of a line 952 or lines, or of a station or stations. The service in question had been allowed through financial pressures to deteriorate; the clientele had naturally diminished, and in the vicious circle thereby created the conditions were ripe to justify closure. By this process, towns and villages with railway stations for generations were reduced in status. In my experience, no concerted action was taken to make new, modified use of branch lines, which might have required relaxation of the statutory requirements for signalling and other equipment; but that did not seem to be an impossible re-think.
In these circumstances, my dear departed friend, the right honourable Thomas Johnston, C.H.—who is very well-known, I am sure, to many of your Lordships—made a suggestion which seemed well worth considering. By this time he was Chairman of the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board—one of his brain children while Secretary of State for Scotland—and I was a member of his Board. He had ascertained that in Germany battery-driven electric rail-cars were in extensive use, which he considered could usefully be fitted into the Highland scene, to be charged at night from off-peak hydro power. As a member of the Board, I undertook to go to Germany to investigate the position, which I did at my own expense.
I received the greatest possible assistance from the German Railway Authority, who showed me all that had been done over many years in developing these vehicles up to the very sophisticated state they were then in, particularly in respect of batteries and control equipment. I travelled with officials in the driving cab of one of these small trains over busy lines in the Ruhr—these were busy tracks where heavy trains were running, as well as these little trains running right through—and I came home with drawings and much useful information which the authorities had kindly given to me.
Mr. Johnston was full of enthusiasm, and pressed the railway authorities to try an experiment with a battery train between Aberdeen and Braemar. After great hesitation, again due to lack of finance and other causes, they agreed, but instead of importing from Germany a complete unit in its perfected state they would agree only to convert one of their 953 small diesel units to battery use at their own hands. The result was a very short life, as the batteries available, and the control gear, did not measure up to the strain, and the experiment was abandoned. I am still of the opinion that Mr. Johnston's idea was a good one, and in any re-think is worthy of consideration.
Twenty years have passed since my German visit. I wondered whether, in the large extension of normal electrification, the small units had served their day and been abandoned. Through the kind offices of the German Embassy I have learned that, far from being abandoned, no less than 240 units are in daily use at the present time providing, what is said to be, a very economical service, mostly in Hessen and in North Germany; and I think your Lordships would be interested to hear that these small units have an annual mileage of the order of 12½ million miles. I sincerely hope that I have not stretched your Lordships' tolerance too far.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ LORD FORBES
My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Erskine of Rerrick, and I am even more delighted to be the first to congratulate him. The noble Lord is extremely well known throughout Scotland for his service to Scotland, especially his services to banking, and as deputy chairman of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. I am sure I am echoing your Lordships' views when I say that we hope we shall hear the noble Lord speak in your Lordships' House on many occasions in the future.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, for introducing this extremely important debate. Communications are absolutely vital to Scotland, not only for the people of Scotland but also for industry in Scotland. Some 20 years ago I made my maiden speech in your Lordships' House on the need for good communications in Scotland and the need for a freight liner rail system and the Forth Road Bridge. Ever since then I have considered that transport in Scotland is of paramount importance; and I think one of the greatest achievements when I was at the Scottish Office was the launching of the project for the Tay Road Bridge. To-day I must declare an interest as I am a 954 director of a travel agency in Edinburgh.
A really good transport system for Scotland is even more necessary than one for many other countries. Unfortunately, Scotland is badly placed geographically. Scotland is not only remote from the mass markets in England but also from the many sources of supply. Many of her older industries, which are in the central belt, are the heavy industries. where freight costs form a large part of total costs. To aggravate this, there is the terrible geographic position of London—the hub of the United Kingdom, but located some 500 miles away or more from places in the North of Scotland. The distance barrier creates many problems. Not only does it account for high freight rates and high passenger rates but also there is no doubt that it accentuates the feeling of remoteness which leads to people getting out of touch at times. Surely in this age of going to the moon it should not be outwith man's ingenuity to bring people living in the North of Scotland within commuting distance of London, and at a price which those who want to use the service can afford. Surely we can devise a system whereby industry in Scotland can transport not only raw materials but also the finished articles at a reasonable cost, so that the finished article remains competitive.
My Lords, whatever happens it is up to the Government of the day to ensure that personal opportunity is not restricted through lack of mobility. Unfortunately, it is not just the distance between Scotland and England: there is also the problem of distance within Scotland, where there are long distances between centres of population, and also the population generally, outside the central belt, is more sparse—indeed, in some places extremely sparse. The sparseness of population in itself creates a problem. It means that in some cases services are highly desirable but are not economic. This is where the Government must come to the rescue. Those who live and work in the less populated areas cannot just be ignored by Governments, even if their votes do not count for much. Last but not least, we must take into account that Scotland, largely through the advent of North Sea oil, could be entering an age of new prosperity. I say, "could" because she will achieve this prosperity provided she has a transport system to match not only the needs of to-day but 955 also future needs. The requirements are changing from time to time, and the transport system must be kept under review at all times.
My Lords, how is this system to meet the needs of Scotland to be planned? First, the needs have to be identified and then priorities must be established. The planning of the system has to be at the highest level so that the most suitable forms of transport are used to meet the various needs. I entirely agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, that this means that we must have an integrated system of transport. I go further: the Secretary of State for Scotland should have direct responsibility for rail and air transport as well as, as at present, trunk roads. Furthermore, my Lords, the Secretary of State should be responsible for the provision of airports and the track on which the railways run, as in the case of trunk roads. There would be much sense in the State paying for the railway track. The railway system should still be run by British Rail and the air system by British Airways and the independent airlines, because in the running of the systems independence is much to be encouraged.
Communications are Scotland's life blood, and here again I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie: the system has to be planned so that it has arteries and feeder veins as its foundation. All forms of transport will be needed for the arteries. However, in some areas the accent will be on one form of transport and in others on another form. The arteries and the veins together will make up a comprehensive transport system. Now the need for overall planning is absolutely paramount. It is blatantly obvious that in some instances in the past priorities have not been right: the veins have been developed without regard to the arteries. The Secretary of State must be responsible for the overall planning of the arteries while the regional authorities should play a major part in planning the veins, with the overall policy guidelines laid down by the Secretary of State.
When planning a transport system the biggest difficulty is to look far enough ahead Added to this is the problem that the situation is constantly changing. For instance the present high-speed trains 956 could make some internal airports redundant just because of the time that it takes passengers to get aboard a plane for a short-distance haul and the time a plane takes to reach cruising height. Changes in industry, changes in centres of population and changes in the vehicles of transportation will all necessitate changed transport priorities. Furthermore, measures unique to the United Kingdom may well have to be adopted to cater for special circumstances such as long distances and, at times, comparatively low density traffic. By this I mean Government must have an open mind to such things as subsidies in certain circumstances.
Transport subsidies should be used either for short duration, to get a project off the ground, or to sustain certain necessary transport services that are otherwise uneconomic; and it is most important when services require subsidies that the route should be put out to competitive tender, otherwise public money could be wasted. Never must people or industry suffer from lack of necessary and economic communications. Lack of communications leads to depopulation, desert areas, while other areas become overcrowded. Both extremes have their evils and it is up to the Government to see that they do not arise and to ensure that the whole country is healthy; the whole body must be healthy, not just parts of it. Her Majesty's Government must take an urgent look at freight charges which in some instances where long distances are involved, are going so high they are having an adverse effect on industry. Equally, some passenger fares are now becoming a major deterrent to personal initiative. It is for consideration whether the Regional Development Fund should be used to mitigate this fast growing evil. Something must be done.
We must accept the fact that the transport services are important in promoting the regional, economic and social development. The problem for Her Majesty's Government is to ensure that the best value for public money is obtained. At present, the Highlands and Islands air service is subsidised to the tune of £2 million. But surely in relation to other forms of public expenditure in aid of regional, social and economic development it is a small sum. The detrimental distance barrier simply has to be slashed somehow. What is wanted is an easy and cheap 957 interchange of people—people from the wilds of Scotland being able to go to the hub of the United Kingdom, London, where among other things, they can see the pace at which life ticks over. Equally, people from the congested areas of England can go to Scotland to relax, find time to think straight and recharge their batteries by filling their lungs with good, fresh air and, for good measure, their tummies with a dram of whisky. Already statistics show many more people go north each year—and no wonder, because the further North they go the more civilised life becomes!
To enable a healthy interchange between those in the North and those in the South to take place there must be a form of cheap travel for the casual traveller. I am not talking about the business traveller who can afford the scheduled services. The best way to achieve this is by chartered air service based on a low fare with a correspondingly high load factor. An initial Government subsidy might be necessary because it might be difficult to achieve a high load factor in the early stages of mounting the programme. It would be largely a question of education and getting people to take their first flight. After that, success would breed success.
The State simply must be prepared to take a part in something to revolutionise the lives of not only those living in the remote parts of Scotland, but also those involved in the rat race in the South of England. The present scheduled return air fare from Aberdeen to London is £40.80. This scheduled air service will remain the businessman's service because he sets so much store on reliability. A charter fare, based on a high load factor, should be about half that cost, and there is little doubt that, with an air fare which would come within the reach of a much wider portion of the population, the potential would be tremendous.
I hope this project will be examined by the Government without delay. Of course the body which should take on this task and show its mettle is the Scottish Tourist Board. The Tourist Board should bring together all the interested parties and any examination should not just be left to the airlines, as in the past, because in this case ground arrangements, such as hotels, will also have to be considered. I have little doubt that, given 958 initial encouragement by the Government, an airline can be found to undertake this service which would not only be highly beneficial and healthy in bringing together the people of the United Kingdom, but would soon become an extremely lucrative service. The Minister gave an assurance that the improvements to the road between Dundee and Aberdeen was to go ahead. I should like to ask the Minister when those improvements are likely to be completed. With the advent of oil exploration this road is now totally inadequate. It is a classic example of a gummed old vein being available instead of a free-flowing artery, as is required.
Then there is the very vexed question of Aberdeen airport, which has already been touched on. Aberdeen is now the oil capital of the United Kingdom and its airport is something one might expect to find in the foothills of the Himalayas, or in the remoter parts of the Prairies of Canada. Its development just has not moved at anything like the speed of increase in traffic. What a way to show the Americans that we really mean business over oil when the first sight they get of the Scottish oil kingdom is a number of huts which go to make up Aberdeen airport! The noble Lord quoted figures to show that there had been great expansion at the airport. I can give him further figures. Last month compared with the previous year the increase in passengers went up by 70 per cent., to 38,507 passengers. The number of aircraft using Aberdeen airport compared with the same month the previous year went up by 88 per cent. There is the vexed question as to who is going to run Aberdeen airport—the Civil Aviation Authority or the British Airports Authority. In the meantime, the Aberdeen County Council are to go ahead with development plans for the expansion of Dyce and, particularly, industrial sites around the airport. All this is so urgently required in respect of industrial expansion.
The local authority may be taking a risk, because if the ownership of the airport is changed it is possible that there could also be a change of plan. This is a had situation and one only hopes that there will not be any waste of public money due, first, to indecision, and then to which authority is to own and run the airport. I beg of the Minister to settle this matter without delay. Then, 959 more apron room and hangar room is required as more airlines want to use the airport. Pilots coming in to land get assistance from landing aids, but as yet no radar exists at Aberdeen airport. When the Minister replies, I should like him to tell us when Aberdeen airport will get radar. There are no proper customs facilities to deal with scheduled flights to the Continent or charter flights coming in from abroad. That again is not the way to impress people coming to Scotland, from abroad. In short, Aberdeen airport is not only failing to keep up with expansion of new industries, but is failing to keep up with expansion of the indigenous industries.
The noble Lord, speaking for the Government, dismissed the idea of an inter-Continental airport. I warned the noble Lord that I would be raising this question but he just dismissed it; he wiped it off the slate completely. I do not think that that is good enough. There is a good case for an inter-Continental airport. It should be sited somewhere where fast land communications can be obtained so that it would serve Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Perth. This means that it should be within easy reach of a motorway. A possible site might be between Airdrie and Bathgate, just off the M.8. To demonstrate the importance of good land communications I would only instance the fact that there are a number of people now living on the Eastern outskirts of Glasgow who use Edinburgh Airport, Turnhouse, when they want to fly because it is quicker to go to Edinburgh by the motorway than it is to get through Glasgow to go to Renfrew Airport.
A number of years ago a major airport in the central belt was mooted, and at that time I think it was turned down because of bad weather conditions in the central belt or, should I say, weather conditions that were not ideal. But since then there have been tremendous advances in aids both in the air and on the land and surely these advances would now mitigate this problem. Of course, there is the introduction of smokeless fuel zones, and that has been a great help. An inter-Continental airport would not only relieve pressure on Heathrow but also give Scottish businessmen a Continental service they need so badly. Today 960 the majority of businessmen have to fly to Heathrow to reach the Continent. This is quite ridiculous; it is just about as ludicrous as it would be if English businessmen had to fly to Wick in order to get to the Continent. The central belt of Scotland is a very large catchment area in itself and it would be an even larger catchment area if Continental traffic was included. The central belt is ideally suited for inter-Continental traffic. I have little doubt that an airport sited there would be viable because the viability of an airport depends on the number of aeroplanes and passengers passing through. One has only to look at the Danish inter-Continental airport to realise this. In Denmark the airport handles some 6 million passengers a year, while the population of Denmark is only 4 million. Therefore, most of the passengers using the airport are in transit from other countries.
I know that some will say: "What about the expense of building a new airport?" But against this could be offset the valuable ground on the outskirts of Glasgow and Edinburgh, presently occupied by Renfrew and Turn-house airports. These considerable and very valuable areas could be sold once a new airport has been established. Of course, no city likes losing its airport and there would doubtless be a howl against it unless the matter was carefully handled. First, a feasibility study should be carried out, and then one hopes it would be shown that by concentrating on one really good airport people would get not only a better service in the form of better and more frequent internal services but also faster and more frequent services to the Continent. Airport Scotland I believe is essential.
To sum up, my Lords, good communications are vital to the health of Scotland, both for industry and for the people who live in the country. To neglect necessary improvement to the various systems of communications, as in the past, will increase the existing malaise throughout the United Kingdom and the barrier—in this case the distance barrier—will remain with dire consequences, not only for Scotland but for the whole of the United Kingdom. Improved transport services will make healthy not only Scotland but the whole of the United Kingdom.
My Lords, this debate introduced by the noble Viscount. Lord Thurso, has included so far a large majority of Highlanders, so perhaps your Lordships will allow me to say a few words on behalf of the Borderers. In recent times our area has been adversely affected by depopulation and by reduced prosperity. Some years ago a team of planners, under Professor Johnson Marshall. set out to make proposals which would help to combat some of these problems and bring new blood to our society. A plan to establish a new settlement at Tweedbank was decided upon, and is now under way. Unfortunately, just as these winds of change were beginning to warm our climate they were accompanied by a cold blast in the form of the closure of the Waverley railway line, which has had a damaging effect on our economy and on our way of life and which has been very off-putting to potential newcomers who wanted to come to join us. Plans to provide better and more public transport have not materialised. Our roads are better, but our bus services are not. Buses are infrequent, cold and uncomfortable, and they are strongly criticised by the Borderers who use them. Many people without cars who wish to enjoy the amenities of life in Edinburgh and else-where, or who need to travel for some urgent purpose, find themselves cut off and often frustrated and lonely. I regret that my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood is not here to-day. She has to be in Manchester. I think that her views would be in line with what I have to say.
When fighting the closure of the Waverley line she warned us that this situation would arise, and it has. Mr. Alan Smith, chairman of a group of textile factories in the Borders, said recently that every one of their 26 factories was short of labour and that in the Borders poor communications were partly to blame. Although the cutting out of passenger trains with all the station staff who were involved was probably necessary, nevertheless small rail passenger buses might have replaced them. Although the lines have been lifted up, even at this eleventh hour I still hope that the line may be reopened for small passenger mono-rail buses or for some form of 962 hovercraft. I should also like the Minister, if he would, to see whether some comprehensive system of mini-buses running on the roads between villages might be established. At present we are in a desperate situation with no rail transport, with roads which are inadequate for the increasing amount of freight and car traffic which they have to carry, and with inadequate bus services.
Looking ahead, many Border forests are now reaching maturity and our factories in the Borders will, we hope, be producing more textile and other goods. So the situation could become chaotic. The worst chaos would be along the A.7, where this winding road runs through the main textile towns and through many large woodlands. This road provides our main link with the M.6 at Carlisle. If nothing is done to stop the increase of traffic on this road there will be an increasing number of holdups with more frustration and more accidents. Only recently I was held up for an hour while a crane slowly extracted a heavy lorry which had overturned near Canonbie.
One of the difficulties of our situation is that the two existing main North/South roads, the A.7 and the A.68, run along the river valleys. These rivers flow through gorges past high banks, and at these points they twist and the roads have to follow the twists. An added factor is that at these points the landscape is at its most beautiful, and because it is also fertile and watered the trees that grow there are often fine specimens. Even if we wanted to ruin the landscape by road improvements along the Esk, I doubt in fact whether we could do the job satisfactorily, so some way must be found to help to restrict the flow of the traffic between Carlisle and Hawick. The best way, no doubt, would be to introduce some form of passenger transport system along the Waverley line. But some road straightening and widening has to be done. When we do this we should do as little harm to the landscape as possible.
I congratulate the Scottish Development Department on their creation of the road bridge over the River Tweed at Leaderfoot. Future generations will be able to thank them for this beautiful structure and example of 20th century architecture at its best. But, my Lords, I can only describe the Department's 963 efforts a few miles North near Chapelon-Leader as nothing less than barbaric. Something had to be done to widen and straighten this stretch, but no effort has been made to preserve the existing banks and vistas. Trees have been ruthlessly torn down. One of my favourite subjects for painting, a view beloved by Girtin himself, looking across the Leader, has been blocked by a high railway-type embankment which could have been avoided if the road had been redesigned to follow the natural line of the valley's wooded bank. I hope the second phase of this particular operation near Carolside will be cancelled. The road there is much straighter than in the first phase, and the trees and banks are even lovelier. When the Berwickshire Civic Society tried to persuade the local authority to save a screen of trees along this second stretch we were told that this would cost too much money, and that the trees belonging to this screen would have to be felled to make room for the spoil taken from the high banks of the opposite side of the road, spoil which otherwise would have to be carted some distance away. Surely in the interests of economy, if not amenity, this second phase should now be reconsidered.
I should like to pass very briefly from the particular to problems of general planning. In recent years an extensive road improvement scheme has been got under way in Scotland, and because of the need for speed there has been a failure to consult the public before carrying out plans. The alterations near the Leader have been a case in point. Had the Scottish Development Department consulted the Countryside Commission and the local authority consulted the Berwickshire Civic Society, these mistakes would not have been made, and this beautiful scenery would not have been ruined. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has mentioned the new system whereby the regions will now take over responsibility for grants. I hope that in future local authorities will be required to publicise well ahead all major schemes. particularly in areas of special scenic beauty so that time can be given for consultation and for proper deliberation.
If the new regional authorities were to consult their local civic societies—made up on the whole of distinguished pro- 964 fessional people, architects in our case, agriculturists, landowners and artists—many of these mistakes could be avoided. In Berwickshire we have been ready to give our time and energy, and very little time has been wasted because we have held things up. I may say that on the occasions when we have been consulted our advice has been appreciated and valued by the county council authorities. Indeed, we were orginally established at the instigation of the county convenor and the county planning officer. One aspect of our present local administrative structure which has worried me has been the lack of liaison between different departments in the county council. It is probable that a similar lack of liaison will exist between different departments in the regions between planners and road engineers. Where there are controversial plans, it is all the more important that advice be sought from the competent people before decisions are taken to carry them out. Up till now plans for road improvements have been rushed into by central and local Government without advice from people on the spot, from people who have knowledge of and a love for the piece of ground which is to be carved up.
I hope that local civic societies will have the right to approach the local authorities about cases where there is controversy and where perhaps extra expense is involved, with some hope of success. That success will only come if stricter controls are introduced. Procedure is needed whereby plans are submitted to civic societies in good time before they are due to be carried out. The present system in which they are rushed through without much warning by road departments so that local residents have little option but to accept plans must cease. Civic societies can also help to improve roadside scenery by encouraging the planting and pruning of trees. Just as the French system of roadside tree care has helped to enhance the pleasures of Continental motoring, we in Scotland could do much to improve our scenery in order to foster tourism.
Tourism in Scotland centres on Edinburgh. As a vice-president of the Edinburgh Amenity and Transport Association I am in full agreement with its policy of restricting traffic within a city which is so well worth preserving. The noble Lord, Lord Hoy, has referred 965 to the possibility of a by-pass being built. If this by-pass were built, through traffic would be enabled to by-pass the city from Musselburgh past the edge of the Pentland Hills to the Barnton area. This outer ring road would not only assist long-distance traffic but would also improve the links between the Borders and the outside world so that we would be enabled to drive reasonably quickly to the airport at Turnhouse, to Glasgow and to the Forth Road Bridge. This would enable heavy lorries going to the industrial West from the Borders to use the A.8, and we should then not be required to reconstruct, to some extent, the East-West road along the Tweed valley.
My Lords, some years ago we in the Borders were offered a shot in the arm by the Government in the form of an expensive new settlement near the Tweed at Tweedsbank. We accepted that offer gratefully and got ready to welcome the newcomers to our community, because we were anxious to play our part in the creative life and work of modern Britain. Then almost at the same time we lost our mobility at the hands of the Government. This was a disaster for the Borders. Some people have called us the end of a long line of cattle thieves. But before that we rode at Flodden and Ancrum Moor. We are descended from horsemen and the role of horsemen is mobility. I am reminded of the frustrations which the regiment I served in during the war, the Royal Scots Greys, suffered in the early days of that war. We had to wait three years for tanks, passing the time as best we could on our grey horses in Palestine. In the end we got our tanks and were then able to live up to our motto: "Second to none". We Borderers are proud of our traditions. We are energetic people, ready to play our part, but we must be mobile.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ LORD TAYLOR OF GRYFE
My Lords, the House is indebted to the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, for introducing this subject. I am sure that he must feel adequately rewarded by the number of participants in the debate, and by the presence of so many interested Members of this House. He must also feel rewarded by attracting three maiden speeches in the course of this debate. How welcome it is that the House will benefit in the future from the long experience of the 966 noble Lord, Lord Glenkinglass; from the deeply felt concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie; and from the industrial background of the noble Lord, Lord Erskine of Rerrick. I am quite sure that in future debates on Scottish and other affairs the House will enjoy their contributions. The speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, was a very distinguished and very eloquent one. If there is one criticism that I might offer it is that perhaps the speech asked more questions than it answered. Perhaps at a later stage we shall try to examine what it is that is holding up the kind of desirable developments on which there is such great unanimity in this House this afternoon. One of the most interesting points about to-day's debate, unlike previous debates on Scottish affairs, is the general mood of optimism which is shared on all sides. I have listened to debates on Scottish affairs over the years, and invariably there have been complaints about this form of neglect by Central Government, or that form of neglect by Central Government. But to-day the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, set the mood for the debate when he approached it in an atmosphere of optimism about Scotland's future. Justifiably, this has been echoed by other Members of the House. However, there is grave danger of the present upsurge of optimism, based largely on the discovery of oil, going slightly to our heads and there may follow political consequences in the upsurge of a nationalism which seeks to separate Scotland from the United Kingdom. Yet when we look at this problem of developing an adequate transport system in Scotland, we must recognise that it calls for the large-scale investment that is possible only within a United Kingdom system. I hope that some of the present enthusiasts for Scottish nationalism, whose enthusiasm is based on very desirable and decent emotions, will calculate some of the costs involved which the new Scotland will itself have to support.
I believe that the optimism about the future of Scotland is not misplaced. Like the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, I believe that Scotland is entering a new era. If we look at the history of our country and the great leap forward in Scottish industrial and commercial development in the 18th century, we realise that two things happened at that 967 time. One was the fact that we gained access for the first time to a large common market. Before that time we were engaged in fighting wars with England and had little opportunity to enter the large market of 20 million people that was at our disposal. The second factor which generated the Scottish industrial and commercial revolution was the fact that we made use of new resources of power, the discovery of steam and the availability of coal and iron. I suggest that there are certain parallels in the present situation; that we have at our disposal a new source of energy, that we have access to a large Common Market and, in addition, we have resources of inventiveness in Scotland which are under-utilised and are sometimes utilised only when our young people go abroad. We have eight universities for five million people. In just the same way as a great deal of the Scottish industrial innovation was based on one school in every parish, to-day we have the intellectual and inventive resources which, I am sure, will make possible the kind of changes that were so eloquently described by the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso.
As the noble Viscount said, if we are to do this transport is an important element. The Scottish Council for Industry and Development, which has done such excellent work in analysing Scotland's economic problems and producing programmes for improvement, produced a report last year on the future of Scotland in which they indicated, quite rightly, that the whole industrial basis of the Scottish economy has been in the narrow Central Belt 20 miles North and South of Glasgow across to Edinburgh. Practically all the industrial development is concentrated in that area—large towns, engineering, mining and so on. But the change that is now taking place in Scotland will be based on a new axis stretching from the large industrial complex. which is inevitable, in Hunterston and stretching up through the North-East of Scotland to Inverness and Aberdeen. If this is to be the new axis of Scottish industrial development then, as the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, said, we should not let our transport system follow the developments, with all the attendant difficulties and problems. Let 968 us anticipate the kind of industrial growth which will take place and adapt our transport facilities to take advantage of them.
The other important change in our Scottish economy will be based on our relationship with Europe and, while I wish the Government well in their re-negotiation of terms for our membership of the European Community, I hope we shall never reach the stage when we are going to withdraw from Europe. I would regard that as disastrous for Scotland, because I believe that Europe offers opportunities which can be taken advantage of by Scotland, and I sincerely hope the Government will succeed in achieving results in the negotiations which will be generally acceptable in our country. If we look at exports to Europe last year, we find that they were 37 per cent. up. The port of Grangemouth is suddenly becoming alive with the export of chemicals and petrochemicals to Europe. Our exports to the rest of the world were up 24 per cent. But the pattern of trade is moving away from the old traditional pattern of West to Scottish trade, and moving to the East Coast, to a Scottish-European trade. Therefore, if this is so, our whole transport system must be geared to anticipate that kind of development, and it is against that kind of economic situation that we must plan the future of our transport.
During the last few years I have been engaged in attracting European investment to Scotland, and I find that in Europe there is a great misunderstanding as to where Scotland is and as to its proximity. I do not know whether this will be in any way clarified by the appearance of 20,000 Scotsmen in Frankfurt yesterday—I suggest not. Nevertheless, there is in Europe a lack of appreciation that Scotland is reasonably close to Europe, and the mere fact that we have only two direct air services from Glasgow Airport to Europe is certainly a limiting factor. Lufthansa initiated a service from Glasgow to Frankfurt and after a year withdrew it, because of lack of support. K.L.M. is battling on manfully with the Glasgow-Amsterdam service of direct flights and I hope they will succeed, because it is very important, if Scotland is to take advantage of the new European situation, 969 that we should have direct flights between Scotland and Europe, and that we do not have the frustrations of Heathrow to suffer on every European journey.
Those are the main points that occurred to me, my Lords, but there is one final point that the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, made no reference whatsoever to tourism in his Motion, referring only to the importance of a transport system to commercial and economic life and to agriculture and fisheries, and several noble Lords have corrected this omission. It we are to have an expanding tourist industry we should not destroy our countryside, even in our desire to get new and better roads. Let us pay due heed to good landscaping of roads. I am Chairman of the Forestry Commission and we boast of having 10,000 miles of roads in this country where motor cars are prohibited, because we believe that we have something to offer in the peace and quietness of the countryside. So I hope that, in the development of our road system and of our new transport system, due attention wil be paid to the environmental implications.
Just as we now pay a great deal of attention to the environmental implications of sites for oil rig construction—and we have certainly been through that during the past year in Scotland—so we should pay some attention to the question of access to these oil rig areas. To take the oil rig construction area at Ardyne on the Clyde, where there is great activity and what seems to be a very desirable development, it would be a disaster if the vast amount of cement and steel which is required there were transported by road, which I gather is a possibility. It would mean a constant flow of vehicles every day up Loch Lomond side and across the Rest and Be Thankful, in order to get to Ardyne. So that in considering the siting of oil rigs and industrial development, I hope the planners will pay some attention to the transport going to and from these oil rigs and, wherever possible, divert it from roads.
My Lords, according to the Addison Rules, I am somewhat inhibited in this debate, as Chairman of British Railways in Scotland, from mentioning railways. But it would be unwise if I did not mention the fact that the railways provide a minimum of visual intrusion in the landscape, cause no pollution and make for a 970 much more economical use of land. Having said these few words about railways, which I hope will not offend against the Addison Rules, I once again congratulate the noble Viscount on introducing this interesting debate.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CROMARTIE
My Lords, may I add my congratulations to the three very distinguished maiden speakers, and as we all do, hope that they will speak again I am sure that all of us are grateful to my noble kinsman, Viscount Thurso, for initiating the debate. A good deal of the subject matter was, of course, covered by your Lordships during the debate on oil when at least we had the welcome statement from the noble Lord the Minister that the A.9 road was to go ahead, and with some further improvements. As most of us are aware the whole country is suffering from the misbegotten terms of reference laid down by the Government of the day which led to the Beeching Report and the near destruction of what had been the finest railway system in the world. Now even the powerful road lobby, who have much to answer for in this tragedy, have come to realise that their pressures have resulted in traffic chaos, with death and injury to great numbers of road users.
Would not the Government agree that where possible those responsible for certain loads which are highly dangerous, such as liquid gas and chemicals, should be made to use the railways, which are far safer for such loads? A few weeks ago a hugh tanker carrying North Sea liquefied gas overturned in the middle of the village of Carrbridge. The tanker was badly dented but luckily there were no leaks, by the grace of God, otherwise that village might well not have been there if there had been anybody smoking a cigarette nearby.
My Lords, I turn briefly to the tourist traffic which is assuming gigantic proportions, to some extent due to the valueless pound in Europe. I mentioned during the oil debate that our West Coast Highland roads were not fit to carry this traffic plus the normal commercial and local traffic. One of the causes of dangerous frustration to road users, such as doctors and those going about their normal business, is hold-up by caravans on narrow roads. It is perfectly understood by 971 any reasonable person that many families find the caravan holiday essential due to the high cost of hotels, and indeed in many areas lack of accommodation. But it must be appreciated that this form of tourism is the least profitable to those areas which they tend to make their targets—South-West England, Wales, the Lake District and above all the West and North-West Highlands of Scotland where, as I have explained, the roads are in most cases utterly inadequate to absorb the traffic of the summer months.
My Lords, I would ask the Government to consider levying a reasonable road tax on all trailer caravans, which subscribe least to the rural areas which they penetrate, such tax to be given to the local authorities of the areas who suffer the most. This would go far towards meeting the heavy expense of providing desperately needed caravan and camping stances with the necessary sanitary arrangements which are so often nonexistent. I would draw the attention of noble Lords to the fact that so far as the Highlands are concerned there is no Elsan disposal point North of Fort William.
It must be realised that the holiday season in the North of Scotland is short, and this is an added reason why help should be given from this source. The capital expenditure on sites to conform with the regulations is very high indeed. I would suggest to Her Majesty's Government that much greater powers be given to local authorities to control caravans, especially in relation to designated sites, and also powers to the local authorities to forbid the use of certain roads to caravans, roads which are unsuitable and dangerous to themselves and to other road users. If caravanners wish to use these roads then all they need do would be to leave their caravans on a designated site and use their cars or possibly even their feet.
My Lords, I cannot end without reference to MacBrayne's ferries, as naturally being convener of Ross and Cromarty includes the Island of Lewis, the biggest of the Outer Hebrides, in my county. Is it not time that these ferries should be regarded as an extension of the mainland roads and, where they exist, railways? Why should those who have their homes and work in the Isles be penalised by ever-increasing freight and passenger 972 rates? A variety of transport is available for those, who, for example, live in the South-East of England and who come up to London to work, strikes permitting. The Islanders have a shipping company who have a monopoly. Certainly the air service is reasonably good, but every commodity—food, the lot—leaving and entering the Islands must go by sea, and with the latest increase in freight charges the burden on the Island economy has become a very serious problem. I hope that the Government will look very carefully into this matter as I know the noble Lord the Minister will.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, as have many other noble Lords I want to thank the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, for introducing this debate; and he must be very pleased at the sequel, the three maiden speeches and the general high level of the debate which has taken place. I should also like to ask him to express our thanks to the Liberal Party. When we were trying to get a date for the Scottish debate. I found that both the Labour Party and the Conservatives were very coy about sparing their time, so I think we should all recognise that for to-day's debate we owe our thanks to the Liberal Party for giving us their day.
My Lords, the country's prosperity, indeed its whole development, as the mover of the Motion tells us, depends on good communications—on land, the roads and the railways, on the sea, the ports, and also the air. When one is talking about developing a country you talk about, "opening it up". I wonder, my Lords, how Scotland stands in relation to this in comparison with many other places. First, let us take the question of the roads. I am thinking now not of the small roads but of the major roads.
The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, quoted a lot of figures (which I must confess confused me) about how many good roads we have. I put down a Question for Written Answer ten days ago, which I thought would be a very simple Question. I asked how many miles of motorways existed in England, Scotland and Wales respectively. I have had no Answer. I do not know whether it is that the wheels of Government grind slowly, or whether it is that the Answer would not be very satisfactory. But I should say that in England there may be a 973 thousand miles or more of M roads; in Scotland there are probably under one hundred miles, and I wonder whether, for Wales, the mileage of motorway has reached double figures. So much for the roads. What is clear is that there is still a lot to be done.
My Lords, we come then to the railways. We all know what nearly happened on the railways—we very nearly came to the point where we had no railway system, even to Inverness or Dumfries. The noble Lord, Lord Erskine of Rerrick, told us how distasteful was the task for him when he had to agree to one line after another of the railways being closed. I have experienced that myself. We had a line from Perth to Edinburgh. We saw the process as outlined by the noble Lord, of the service deteriorating. I do not say that it was deliberately allowed to deteriorate, but nothing was done to improve the service for the passengers and as a result the railway service ran down, it began to lose money and then the excuse was made that the line should be closed.
I should like to mention what has been happening lately on the service between Perth and Edinburgh. It has now become a 57-mile journey; we have to go via Stirling, and often have to change. It is quite a frequent service, with seventeen trains a day from Edinburgh to Perth, but when we come to the question of how long that journey takes, we find that the trains average 33 m.p.h. I should not have thought that to be very good for a fairly busy line. Sometimes, of course, the average speed is as bad as 27 m.p.h., but there is one train (this is a real cannon ball) which does the journey at an average of 45 m.p.h.—but that is once a week and Fridays only. This really is not good enough.
I think it worth recalling that in the 1800s, when there were no railways, Edinburgh was a real capital of Scotland. It was the golden age, with the building of the New Town; it was the time of Walter Scott. Then came the railways. As the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, said, railways were deliberately designed to go to London, to make London the hub of the United Kingdom. It was deliberate planning. It resulted in the London Midland and Scottish Railway, and the London and North-Eastern Railway. Such cities as Edinburgh, York, or other 974 great cities were inevitably to decline. I mention this because the same thing is happening with regard to air traffic, or is very nearly happening. Those who determined the air services came to the conclusion that once again London must be the "hub of the air". The result was that we very nearly had a third London airport, while up and down the country all the other places were to languish. A great number of people come from abroad who do not want to go to London, but who want to go direct to wherever it may be. Ask the citizens of Houston, the Texans, who want to go to Scotland whether they want to go to London.
At last, after twenty-five years, we are seeing some improvement on the Edinburgh airport. That will do something to bring back Edinburgh as the hub of Scotland, but it was a very close thing. With reference to seaports, with the development of great ore carriers and the great tankers which are now the fashion, the West coast of Scotland (the deep part around the Clyde) comes into its own. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, spoke of what I might call the skeleton of Oceanspan, which is in process of development. High time, too.
A year or two ago, I made an impassioned speech about how I felt that the Government, or the people who ran things, were unfair to Scotland. As examples I gave such things as the new bridge over the Tay to Dundee, or the new bridge over the Forth, where there is always a toll. But if London wants anything, they are given a subsidy. I think I was wrong. I do not believe that they deliberately want to be unfair. I think rather that it is an attitude of mind which I might call invincible ignorance, not only on the part of Government as a whole, but also on the part of the nationalised industries. This has a serious effect on Scottish transport and on Scotland generally.
I was going to give two examples of what I have in mind, and one of them would have been about the British Sugar Corporation and Cupar. But as time is running out, I will restrict myself to the example of the British Steel Corporation and Hunterston. They have said that with others they are going to build an ore terminal. Splendid! Quite right! It is the right thing to have in this day 975 and age. But they have not gone on from there to say that they are going to make a large new steelworks in the area, which is so necessary for Scotland. No; the idea is that the ore will come in there and then in the main be transported South to Tyneside, or where you will. Perhaps it is natural for the British Steel Corporation to think in those terms but I do not think it is natural for a Scottish Steel Corporation. That is what we want—a Scottish Steel Corporation. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, said he was Chairman of the Scottish Railways Board, but that is a subsidiary of British Railways and British Railways dictate the policy to its subsidiary.
We might be in the same position with regard to air traffic, but luckily we have not only British Airways, but British Caledonian—long may that competition continue. At one time the Labour Party said that they were going to give back to British Airways the lines that British Caledonian had, and recreate that monopoly. If the Labour Party attempts to do that, we must fight it for the good of Scotland. It is only with the competition and help of British Caledonian that we have a reasonable service at the present time. I could make a case for a central bank of Scotland rather than the Bank of England, but I think you might consider that a little far from the Motion we are debating.
My Lords, what is the answer to the question of communications, which we have been talking about with so much wisdom and knowledge, with many suggestions being put forward by many of your Lordships to-day? I believe it is quite simply that Scottish internal affairs including the national industries, should be run from Scotland for Scotland. The Scottish National Party are, of course, in the forefront of this belief. The Liberal Party are not very far behind. The Conservative and Labour Parties are dragging their feet; they are not coming out at all clearly. They say this is something that should be debated. Certainly Kilbrandon should be debated. It should be debated now; there should not still be talk and only talk.
We are having a very interesting debate. It may be read by a few people and there will be some small notice about it in Scottish papers to-morrow, if we 976 are lucky. But think how much more valuable it would have been if this debate had taken place in Scotland. It would have had some real meaning to the people of Scotland and it would have been in a wider assembly. But this is what we want. I am worried about the future relations between England and Scotland. I am worried that when action comes, as it will come, it will be too little and too late. We know that history abounds in examples of that kind. I would appeal to all Parties to agree that we should be given Home Rule now; that we should not have to wait. Otherwise, I fear that the Scots will take what they want, will take what is theirs, and in the taking will smash the union of 250 years—and nobody will benefit from that.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
My Lords, the noble Earl made reference to a Question that he had sent for Written Answer. I recollected while he was speaking that I had signed a reply to him, and I have been to the Prince's Chamber and I am almost certain that the reply he says he has not received has been there nearly all the afternoon.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, that is very good news. I shall be able to see whether the figures I guessed at were correct. It is a little difficult when figures are given during the debate because one cannot really take proper notice of them. It may have been more helpful to all of us if it had been possible to have had them a day earlier.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, my first reason for speaking to-night—of course, I have spoken on this subject so very often—is to congratulate my former Member of Parliament, now the noble Lord, Lord Glenkinglas, on his very good maiden speech. It was well timed, exactly the right time for a maiden speech; I think eight or nine minutes. I shall be only five minutes. I also congratulate the other two maiden speakers, whose speeches I enjoyed very much.
I should like, very briefly, to take up one or two points made by my noble friend Lord Glenkinglas, to which I have always subscribed. He brought out the point that it is quite extraordinary that in the Highlands, particularly the Western 977 Highlands, the railways and the boat ferries do not appear to work in cohesion regarding timetable, so that the car ferry system from the Isle of Mull appears to have no relation to the railway system at all; the railway might as well not be there.
The other point my noble friend brought out (and it is a point I too am keen on) was that it is disastrous that you cannot now send livestock on the railways in Scotland. You certainly cannot send livestock from Oban. We used to have a very good rail service for livestock from the markets, but that has now all been stopped. I think this is a very shortsighted policy on the part of the Transport Board.
The noble Earl behind me, Lord Cromartie, spoke about dangerous loads on the Highland roads. I heartily agree with his observations. There have been several bad accidents in this connection, and there ought to be some legislation or bye-law compelling dangerous loads to be carried by train. It may not always be possible, of course, because the rolling stock may not be suitable, but where it is suitable these loads should go by train. I am all for getting as much heavy traffic as possible off the Highland roads because they are not now adequate for the amount of heavy traffic carried on them. We all know that the Perth-to-Inverness road is to be made a dual carriageway, and that road at the moment is an absolute death trap.
While I know this is a hobby-horse of mine, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will forgive me if I again refer to the Isle of Mull. The trouble with transport there is that it is a complete State monopoly. You cannot drive your sheep or cattle to the pier; you have to put them on lorries. You are not allowed to hire any other lorries but State-owned lorries—or rather MacBaynes' lorries, which to my thinking is one and the same thing. You can, if you have your own lorries, take stock, but many small farmers cannot afford their own lorries. I think that the farmers who are rich enough to have their own transport ought to be allowed to compete with the State transport in transporting other farmers' livestock to Oban on the ferry.
My Lords, I think the sea freight charges throughout the whole of the Hebrides ought to be the same, according 978 to the mileage, or perhaps I should say the knottage, traversed. I pointed out in a Question to-day how extraordinary it is that whereas a farmer whose stock occupies the same space as a caravan and a car has to pay £25, the owner of a caravan and a car pays £3.75 to go across the Sound of Mull. This is really working against the agricultural community. My noble friend who is just leaving mentioned caravans. Caravans must be more controlled. There should be a caravan park near the port of disembarkation. In Mull we have for sometime been trying to get the council interested in a caravan park, but we have no caravan park. Consequently, there is nowhere for a caravan to go. This is very inconvenient. One does not like to be hard-hearted and to shift the caravans on, but it does rather destroy the scenery for other tourists if at every 100 or 200 yards a beautiful coastline is dotted with caravans. I should like Her Majesty's Government to put pressure on councils to really go ahead in this matter of making caravan parks, not near the railhead on the mainland—I do not think that would be possible—but certainly near the port of disembarkation on the Islands.
I think the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, mentioned that there was going to be an Edinburgh by-pass. Perhaps I was wrong. It is perfectly obvious that with this new discovery of oil in the North East Sea, as I call it, of the Orkneys and Shetlands, the whole transport of freight will have to be reorientated. To date it has always gone to the West, to Glasgow and Carlisle. I think it is extremely urgent that we should now build a dual carriageway linking Perth, Edinburgh, Berwick and so on down the East coast of England, because the present congestion of the Glasgow-Carlisle route is very great. I have occasion to travel it often. When the oil growth in the North of Scotland really gets going the congestion will be quite impossible.
I should like to say how much I enjoyed the speech of my noble friend Lord Forbes regarding air services. In many areas in the Highlands air services have been lagging behind. Air services are one of the cheap answers to the prosperity of the Highlands. A few years ago I tried running a small air service from Glasgow to Mull for two seasons; but I 979 got no support from any quarter, so I had to close it. But I am sure that service will now come about with official backing. Regarding the Western Highlands, why cannot we use hovercraft to cross many of the sea lochs. Some of them are very sheltered. I do not know why hovercraft have not been used before.
The other question I wish to raise before I sit down concerns commercial fishing on the West coast. I am rather of the opinion that commercial fishing is being overdone at the moment. For instance, in my sea loch we had all last winter three Norwegian ships which were receiving the fish from boats from Barra and elsewhere, putting them into cold storage, and then occasionally going to Norway. Definitely we will find in two or three years that we will have over-fished the West coast, certainly in the vicinity of the Western Highlands and Islands. I would suggest that this matter should be taken into account and the danger of over-fishing guarded against.
I would end by thanking the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, for initiating this debate. I hope it will bear some fruit with Her Majesty's Government.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ LORD LYELL
My Lords, I should like to begin by thanking the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, for giving us the opportunity to speak in this debate, and also for his own very inspiring speech which started it off. It is very rare that we begin a debate in such an inspiring and excellent manner, and I should like to thank him for that. It is also very rare for us to be able to welcome three maiden speakers. I should like to extend my own warm good wishes to my noble neighbour, Lord Mackie of Benshie. We all look forward to many further contributions of the very high standard we have had from each of the three maiden speakers we have heard to-day.
One main point I would seek to make, in thinking of transport in Scotland, concerns integrating the existing system of transport in Scotland. I hope that this integrated system will lay down the foundation of Scottish economic health for decades to come. One small example of the integration I would look for is in the City of Dundee, which is so well known to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, to Lord 980 Mackie and certainly to myself. The station in Dundee serves as a railhead for most of the county of Angus, and many buses bring in passengers who want to continue their journey by rail; yet the bus station is half a mile distant from the railway station. I myself have had to carry light luggage from one station to the other. I am still reasonably fit and young; but other passengers have to make this journey in the best way they can, and on a cold rainy evening it is not the easiest journey to make. The situation in Aberdeen is totally different. There the buses arrive at and leave a modern station about 100 metres from the railway station. I think we should seek to see that our transport services, bus and rail, are further integrated. This small example of difficulties between rail and road transport is only one small blemish on the scene, since there are absolutely superb rail services from Dundee to Edinburgh and on to London or to Glasgow, and even up to Aberdeen. I have not yet had art opportunity of using the freight facilities from Dundee, but I hope British Rail can maintain the high standard set by passenger services in this area.
The rail network in East Scotland has been considerably reduced in the last 20 years or so, possibly as a result of more and more cars being owned in country districts. This growth in the motoring population is unlikely to continue with the rise in fuel costs. However, we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Glenkinglas, that in many areas more remote than Angus and Dundee, generally the East of Scotland, a motor car is essential in order to work or to do shopping or for any emergency which may arise. In recent years, transport costs, which in Scotland bear a heavier proportion of industrial costs than elsewhere in the United Kingdom, have been rising alarmingly. It is for this reason that I think we must applaud every effort made to reduce transport costs.
Such efforts in reducing these costs will require that the economies of scale have to be seized. Unfortunately, this means that our roads are now becoming accustomed to carrying 10, 12 or 20-ton lorries. In many cases our rural roads, let alone the A.9 or the other roads noble Lords have mentioned, are simply unsuited for such loads. If we in the country districts or anywhere in the North 981 or East of Scotland wish to obtain supplies in the country, in the towns, in factories, in offshore oil rig sites, or on farms, we have to accept that these abnormal lorries will increasingly use our roads.
We must hope that the recent review of road expenditure will not cause further difficulties to Scottish transport, rural or urban, passenger or freight. In the country districts one recent development which has given us great encouragement is that in Glen Lyon in central Perthshire. Here there runs a small bus which is eminently suitable for narrow roads and it provides a totally integrated and comprehensive transport service. Mail, freight, newspapers and passengers are all welcome at a reasonable rate. Such a project is a perfect example of imaginative thinking, and we must all hope that it will be the forerunner of many similar schemes in Scotland.
October 1973 was a watershed all over the world, no less so in Scotland. As a result of the Yom Kippur war the oil supplies of the world were thrown into turmoil. Prices everywhere, and not just for oil but for other things, rose sharply; and apart from the fact that transport costs were distorted fuel costs for the rural population, particularly in Scotland, rose equally sharply. The noble Lord, Lord Glenkinglas, in his outstanding and competent maiden speech, pointed out that the car is far less of a luxury but far more a necessity for work or pleasure in the country districts. Any form of passenger mobility, if petrol should become too expensive or even rationed, cannot be turned on or off like a tap. Should travel by motor car become totally impossible, I do not believe that buses in their existing form can maintain the standard of mobility we are going to need in the 20th or 21st century.
In my own district the nearest railhead is 17 miles distant, and for many of my neighbours the distance is nearer 30 miles, and they do not regard themselves as being in the wild. It is in such districts that transport becomes far more directly involved in the life of everyone, as opposed to some of the more lucky urban dwellers, many of whom can go about their daily life without the need for wheeled transport. Thus. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, to 982 bear in mind the need to integrate public transport so far as possible while continuing to show the same imagination as in the Glen Lyon scheme.
The noble Lord, Lord Forbes, may not agree with me, but I believe that the roads of East Scotland are among the best in the United Kingdom. I know from personal experience that the Perth/Aberdeen road, the A.94, is continually being improved, and while it may not be perfect it is much better surfaced and better designed than many roads in England which have to carry similar traffic. Sadly, the more that local authorities, be they districts, the existing county councils, or the new regional councils, do for the main trunk roads in their area, the more dense grows the traffic to fill these roads. However, we in Scotland must admit that this traffic is increasing in a good cause and to good purpose to help development in essential offshore oil industries. This traffic is not likely to decrease, since as more oil drilling and production rigs are completed so shall we find new industries moving into North-East Scotland to seize the fine facilities we are now creating.
I can only conclude by adding my support to the eloquence of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, in expressing such confidence in Scotland's future. From my own personal observation on a recent visit to the U.S.A., I know that there is a new and awakening interest in the Scottish economy. The oil men of the U.S.A. believe in us. Therefore, let us lay down a sound system of transport which will enable us to develop not just oil, but industry, agriculture, and the whole country of Scotland for the decades to come.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, I should like to add my tribute to the noble Viscount for introducing this debate which has, of course, as he intended, provoked a wide-ranging discussion on this important matter. I propose to confine my contribution to one aspect; namely, the increasing impact of industrial traffic on Edinburgh, its environs and environment. I am the more happy to do so because not only the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, but my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard have pointed out that the pat- 983 tern of industrial traffic in Scotland is shifting eastwards.
The Forth road bridge which is now—can one believe it?—approaching its tenth birthday, produced the expected injection of traffic into the area, but now a further injection is inevitable. In fact, it has started to show. Even people who have lived in Edinburgh all their lives sometimes fail to appreciate that the city is curiously situated, in that it lies between the Pentland Hills and the sea, and that the Pentland Hills extend for twenty-two miles before there is a road across them. In other words, traffic in those airts has to pass through Edinburgh or round its southern edge. There is really no other way, because the northern by-pass suggestions seawise have proved quite impossible, as, I think everybody agrees, to introduce on the grounds of expense in terms of the destruction of industrial and residential buildings. I will come to this later on, but of course it would not link up with the roads to the South in the way that my noble friend Lord Haig mentioned as necessary when lie was speaking about the Borders.
I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, for his lead-in in this respect. I am sorry that he is not here, but I have no doubt that your Lordships are only too glad because I can resist the temptation to start a hammer and tongs discussion on the by-pass of Edinburgh. I mean to approach it only in the whole context of the noble Viscount's debate, which is on the transport situation of Scotland. The problem was realised 30 years ago. In the Abercrombie Plan of 1947 the by-pass road is marked out clearly and much of the land indicated by this plan has already been sterilised. He envisaged that the road bridge should be built, and that the road from the road bridge should continue round the South of Edinburgh. But, alas, when the bridge was built the planners lost both their hearts and heads and they diverted in a two-way highway the traffic from the bridge to Cramond Bridge. Certainly much of the Leith traffic now passes down the Ferry Road.
The fact is that a great deal of the traffic from the North, which is growing every day, filters through the city streets. They had been misled by the traffic census 984 in 1960, which was so inaccurate as to be misleading. The noble Lord, Lord Hoy, mentioned subsequent surveys in 1970 and 1973, but I still regard them with the utmost suspicion and I do not think they analysed the question, which should have been put to the people they talked to: "Do you want to avoid Edinburgh?" They were mostly asked, "Are you going to Edinburgh?", and they said "Yes", because there was nowhere else to go if you wanted to go South. The noble Lord, Lord Hoy, was quite right in saying that I have been interested in this subject for something like 20 years. I began when I was a director of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce in 1954 or 1955. If we want to go on with that I shall put down a separate Unstarred Question. The first that I put down was in July, 1960.
There are two important new factors which have been touched on by a number of noble Lords, and which apply to-day as they have never applied before. The first is the pressure of traffic arising from North Sea oil, which we have already dealt with. The second is the creation of the new enlarged local authority, with responsibilities covering the whole concept. This was touched on in his speech by my noble friend Lord Hughes. I hope that in his reply we may have an indication whether I am right. Is it to be a question—if built or when built—of a trunk road or a road coming under the new local authority? As to the first question about oil transport, I quote from an article in The Times yesterday in which reference is made to the Transport Action Scotland group. which is a combination of the A.A., the R.A.C. and a number of business enterprises.
The chairman, Mr. Andrew Lewis, said:One major shortcoming in the roads programme has been the implicit assumption that all major traffic to England would use the west coast route by the A.74 from Glasgow to Carlisle. A great deal of oil-related traffic from the North-East and Highlands will want a direct route through Perth, the Forth Bridge and the outskirts of Edinburgh, which must have an outer ring road for the heavy long-distance traffic. At present the M.8 is overloaded by Edinburgh traffic doubling back on towards Glasgow and down the A.74 to reach Carlisle and the M.6. The alternative is for traffic to make its way by roads that are not adequate. What is needed is dual carriageway on the A.1 to Berwick, the shortest route to North-East England.985 That latter point was just mentioned by my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard.
Of course the term "outer ring road" is anathema to me because, in the years that have gone by since this original mistake was made of not building the continuation around the South of Edinburgh when the Forth Road Bridge was built, we have had two "ring road" plans with acres and acres of concrete running through our beautiful city, covering the meadows and the Bruntsfield links. So I try to avoid the word "ring", in case it is confused with the inner ring roads which have proved quite unacceptable to the inhabitants of Edinburgh.
My Lords, I return to the question of the impact of this by-pass on the traffic, and emphasise that by-passing the South of Edinburgh it intersects and connects with no less than seven radial roads—A.9, A.8, A.70, A.712, A.701, A.7 and A.68. This, again, impinges on the point made by my noble friend Lord Haig. All of those, however, are major links which have to be used by industrial traffic. As to the second point about the local authority, the unco-ordinated plans of a number of different local authorities now come under the one hat. Hitherto, the plans have not been co-ordinated; all that is needed now, I believe, is a vigorous nudge from the Government which, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will be able to administer.
I have another point, my Lords, which, as I see it, concerns the Department of the Environment. Edinburgh is a jewel, and an internationally recognised one. I need not enlarge on that, but it is a national asset to be preserved from the acres of concrete about which I have spoken. It has already been damaged enough by vandals in the guise of planners. I believe that my strongest point—and I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, is not here because I am not quite sure what he was getting at; however, I shall talk with him about it—is that until a complete by-pass from the Forth Road Bridge to the Great North Road is available and in use, it is impossible to assess its effect on the city's internal traffic. Hitherto, plans have inevitably been based on conjecture. Any- 986 body who knows seasonal traffic in Edinburgh can guess how difficult such conjecture might be. Further internal planning of every sort—I mean in terms of parking, housebuilding, and the value of land, the rateable value and the like—must await the results of a diversion of traffic around the city.
There is one other urgent ancillary matter, my Lords, and it is my last related point. At the junction of a bypass, if and when planned—I believe it to be inevitable that it will come at some time; it is a question not of "if", but of "when"—with the top of the A.1 in the Wallaford Tranent—Musselburgh direction, it is obvious that some link or interchange must be established with Musselburgh's by-pass. But those plans which are urgently needed—I pass through Musselburgh on my way to Edinburgh and back, and I know that the people there are desperately in need of a by-pass—cannot be crystallised until Edinburgh's plans are finalised. Further, Edinburgh's plans, certainly in regard to the Eastern end of the by-pass, must conform with Musselburgh's, otherwise, there will be a muddle and additional cost over the bridging of the River Esk. I could say much more but, important as it is, this is only one facet of Scotland's overall problem which the noble Viscount has unfolded.
I have one other small point, my Lords, which I think of in terms of what my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard said concerning traffic bearing upon the A.1 to Berwick. it is as well to remember that once clear of the city industrial traffic to Newcastle over a by-pass will then have a choice of three routes—the A.68, the A.7 and the A.1—which might, if the A.68 and the A.7 were properly served by a bypass, set back the date when a total dual carriageway and a bridge across the Tweed is absolutely necessary on the A.1. This point is worth considering. I hope that the time is not far off when sleeves are rolled up and the orbital highway is manfully tackled as a matter of urgency, almost as urgent as the A.9. However, I agree with other noble Lords that the major road problem in terms of urgency to-day is the duplication and improvement of the A.9.
987 I was greatly attracted by the maiden speech of the noble Lord. Lord Mackie of Benshie, when he said that to do something of the sort would,put one of the main arteries rights",to use the words from his interesting and constructive maiden speech. It is important that road development shouldput the main arteries right",and, as the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, said, they should come as they came in Germany—and, incidentally, to some extent in India—with the roads before the buildings. I look forward anxiously to the Minister's reply, because a number of people other than myself are anxious to know exactly how the Government regard this facet of the overall transport problem of Scotland.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LAUDERDALE
My Lords, to encourage those who are still waiting for the end of the debate and those who still have to speak, I have cut out the short passages of my speech, while retaining the long ones. First, I should like to join in the plaudits for my noble friend Lord Glenkinglas, speaking in the style we have come to expect from him in the years when he was Secretary of State, a man who did so much—this is seldom recognised—to get an increasing volume of light industry, particularly electronics, into central Scotland during a serious period of Scottish decline.
The maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, attracted me in many respects. He and I have been sparring partners in another connection and have known each other for a long time; but, of course, he did not mention, as perhaps he might have done on some other occasion, that he is really a Maitland. His family is Maitland-Mackie, and I regard it as a great advantage to him to have that connection with my own clan. At any rate, it is a pleasure to hear him again pleading the case for Caithness which we know he has advocated very well and for so long. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Erskine of Rerrick, was elegant and informed. I wish I had been able to be in the Chamber the whole time he was speaking, but unfortunately I was called out.
988 My Lords, I should like to join other noble Lords who have congratulated the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, on as apt and effective a speech as we would expect. But what timeliness of choice! What happy choice of a debate now on Scottish transport! Of course we are accustomed to being blinded with figures scattered like stars by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and we are sometimes even confused by them, but there were some figures which were not mentioned to-day to which I would draw the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. On Monday the Minister of Transport made a Statement in answer to a Question in another place giving figures for the road programme South of the Border which in fact—and I had his figures confirmed by the Department this afternoon—made a cut in real terms of £32 million. I have had some difficulty in getting the exact corresponding figures with regard to Scotland, but, taking the trunk road and motorway estimates for the years 1973-74 and 1974-75 and treating them in the same way as the Department of the Environment have done, I interpret the meaning of the English figures as a net cut in the current English programme in real terms of some £2.2 million. My mathematics may well be wrong and in any case the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, spent part of his speech explaining why cuts are necessary, though he did explain too that oil-related developments were exempt. The broad context of all this is one of great expectations whether it be from oil or from Hunterston.
However, I believe that official quarters continue to underestimate what is coming. For example, we have been inclined to think that oil development North-East of the Shetlands is inevitably focused on the Shetlands and possibly also Orkney Islands but—and this was reflected by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie—the time must come when the economies of the Orkneys and the Shetlands are so overheated that development is forced back on to the mainland, particularly at Caithness and, I suggest, on to the North coast of Sutherland. I draw your Lordships' attention to a statement 989 by the executive vice-president of the Occidental Oil Company, Mr. R. S. MacAlister, at a conference in Scotland only a month ago when he said that,Geological and geophysical investigations have revealed interesting possibilities in the English Channel and Celtic Sea, and challenging prospects West of Shetlands and in the Western Approaches...He went on:On sheer volume of prospective sedimentary rocks the West of Shetlands and the Western Approaches offer the greater prospect... this area is the logical extension of North Sea development.My Lords, what in fact is the overall picture? It is one underestimate after another. The Government—and when our roles were reversed the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, was constantly making this point and I think he was proved right—have for ever been underestimating what is to be expected. The Brown Paper we had the other day gave us a likely production figure for 1980 of somewhere between 40 million and 120 million tons a year, but coming down between those parameters at around 50 million to 70 million tons a year. But a distinguished firm—Messrs. Economic and Planning Consultants who are retained by banks and other quarters to estimate precisely and soberly what are the scales of the reservoirs for which oil companies are seeking development credit—have been retained by Bell Lawrie and Robertson, the much respected and distinguished Edinburgh stockbrokers. They provided a Report entitled Scotland, A Growth Economy and they came out with a very serious estimate for 1980 not of somewhere around 50 million or 70 million tons a year but more like 150 million tons. For good measure the Scottish Council give us a figure of 185 million tons.
The Government have consistently underestimated what the oil exploration will produce. But it is not only that they have underestimated in volume terms the oil which is to be expected, they have also underestimated the job-content, housing and infrastructure needs. The other day we had a statement from the Scottish Office—I have it here—dated June, 1974, from the Scottish Information Office Reference Unit entitled, Housing and North Sea Oil. It suggests that 990 between Stonehaven and Shetland Scotland will need only another 10,000 houses between now and 1978. 10,000 houses at a normal conversion means an increase of population of about 40,000. That is the Scottish Office view. But I must again point out that Bell Lawrie and Robertson, having drawn upon their skilled consultants, reckon that by 1980, (only two years later than the Scottish Office date) the population will have risen about 85,000 and that about 30,000 new jobs will have been created directly and indirectly in the oil industry. Such a figure argues in turn for a need for more like 20,000 houses between Stonehaven and Shetland by the end of this decade.
My Lords, these figures may be right or wrong; I merely want to say that our consistent experience has been that there has been an underestimate on the part of the Government and when we were in Government the same underestimates were given to us—it is the same people who advise both Governments. We have had these underestimates and I believe they are a serious brake on proper long-term planning. Of course, in the light of these underestimates, one can well understand that a cut in real terms in the road estimates was accepted especially as the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, assured us that oil-related schemes were exempt.
But if that is the case, can we really be satisfied with the picture that we have been most recently given? The A.92 road from Dundee to Aberdeen has very limited improvements; from the Stonehaven by-pass up to the Aberdeen city boundary, that is about all. On the A.94 through Forfar and Kirriemuir it is simply virginal and dangerous. One may take the A.9 from Perth to Inverness. Some 21 improvements or by-passes are programmed with a few more in the preparation pool; from Inverness to Alness there are some seven others, but on the whole a hundred miles or more from Alness to Wick and Thurso (which are marked out in the Scottish Development Department's own discussion paper last October as destined for coastal development)—on that whole stretch practically nothing is programmed, except the improvement of the bridge at Bonar Bridge and some work on the Ord. What about the link to the West? On the A.835 Inverness to Ullapool there are a few improvements only.
991 I will accept the point that there is at this moment, due to the balance of payments and other problems, a serious constriction on capital expenditure. But surely we can be told what is in the preparation pool. Is there any reason why some of the most important trunk roadworks, which will obviously be needed if we take independent estimates of likely development seriously, should not be in the preparation pool now and why we should not know about them?
My Lords, just now I quoted the forecast by the executive vice-president of the Occidental Oil Company about the waters North of Scotland and the Western Approaches. Others have said very much what he has said. Is it not time to prepare the road developments that will be necessary past or through Altnahara to Eribol, and for that matter up Strath Kildonan to the North Coast? Surely these road developments, which will be needed, should be prepared now so that when the funds are available and the climate seems right for entering upon the kind of mortgage of our future that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, does not seem to like very much, the thing is ready to go. So often with road developments we are told, "Well, there is preparatory work needed and it will be two or three years before we can give the order to start".
I am thinking too about the implications of Hunterston. It has been with us for the last four years, and the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and I, have taken part in a number of debates on Hunterston. What about the road links that will be needed across Scotland properly to advance and provide for the Hunterston development when it comes? What about the case for a proper trunk road from Galashiels in the Tweed area up to the Clyde? There is no sign that I am aware of that this is even in the preparation pool. What about the clamant demands of the new town of Irvine which is, after all, related to the Hunterston concept? What about their demands for a proper motorway link to the M74? Is that in the preparation pool?
The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said that some people want to mortgage our future. But,my Lords, any business raises equity capital on its prospects. It 992 goes round and says, "We have a good thing. We believe in it. Come in and lend us some money." Therefore, to mortgage a future revenue which, at 11 dollars a barrel can scarcely be less than the amount of £3,000 million a year by 1980—anyway somewhere between £300 and £3,000 million—for road development is not so improvident as it may sound. But may we know (if not to-day then perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will tell us a good moment to put down a Question so that he could answer it in the House) what are the major trunk road schemes in the preparation pool for the future, bearing in mind what we are to look for and expect in regard to Hunterston as well as the oil? May we know what is in the preparation pool?
The noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, called for strategic planning. I heartily agree. He called for thinking big. I heartily agree. He called for thinking early. I heartily agree. He called for new facilities in the proper places. I heartily agree. In the homely phrase of country people, a stitch in time surely saves nine. But both the oil volume, both the exploration successes, both the job implications and the housing needs of this whole matter have been steadily underestimated up to now. Is this really a kind of provincial inferiority complex, a begging bowl mentality, a hangover from the days when Scotland was still stinking of decline? Surely the hangover of that way of thinking should be cast aside because, as the noble Earl, Lord Perth, put it in his own way, the time for that has gone and a new breeze is astir.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down—he spoke of a trunk road from Galashiels to the Clyde—would he not agree that a perfect bypass road for Edinburgh linking the A.68 with the M.8 would be a step in that direction, at least to go on with?
§ THE EARL OF LAUDERDALE
My Lords, my thought on that is that the cost/benefit of the two would not bear comparison because traffic that was heading for Edinburgh and so on is to some extent heading for the North, Central Scotland or the Forth Bridge, whereas traffic heading direct for the Hunterston area and the Clyde area would naturally seek to avoid that roundabout route.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ LORD BURTON
My Lords, may I start by adding my congratulations to the three maiden speakers and also my thanks to the noble Viscount. But in doing so may I add one small grumble to those who arranged the business of the House, I believe the noble Viscount was not given much option, and it seems that we always get matters which are of great interest to Scotsmen during Highland Show week, although I must remember that it is also Ascot week.
One morning last week I turned on the car wireless when the report on Scottish road conditions was being broadcast. I admit that I may have heard it out of context, but the words were to the effect that motorists need expect no hold-ups as there were no major roadworks taking place in Scotland. Back to the times of the last Labour Government! During that period there was a year when the total of trunk road improvements for the vast county of Inverness was one lay-by. During the last few years we got under way the largest roads programme ever known in Inverness-shire, a splendid investment and exactly what was needed to stimulate the economic state of the Highlands. Now what have we got: a complete decimation of that programme.
The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said that oil-related works would avoid the cuts. I would ask him to look very carefully at why we have had cuts between Inverness and Beauly which I should think were very much oil-related. Two major schemes which were ready to go with British Rail under a very dangerous bridge have been cut out.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, before the noble Lord gets too far out in his debits and credits, he must recollect that it was Mr. Barber who was responsible for those cuts, which we are not yet able to reverse.
§ LORD BURTON
Well, my Lords, St.Andrew's House must be even slower than I thought it was. It was only in recent weeks that we have been told they were to be cut. But be that as it may, we are fortunate that some of the schemes started by the previous Government were too far advanced to be stopped. The cut is supposed to be one of 20 per cent on last year's expenditure. But 20 per cent. makes 994 no allowance for approximately a 50 per cent. increase in the average cost of contract works. Bitumen alone is up by 60 to 70 per cent. Then there are machinery costs, labour and the like. So, in all, throughout the country, roadworks have been cut not by 20 per cent. but by something like 45 to 50 per cent.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, the noble Lords ought at least to have paid me the courtesy of listening to what I said on this point. I emphasised the fact that because the greater part of the money which was available was already committed to roadworks under construction, it followed that there must be a very much greater cut than 20 per cent. in new starts. Obviously his percentage is bound to be pretty accurate; in any given year the bulk of the money being spent is already committed because most of the road schemes take two to three years from the time they are started before they are completed.
§ LORD BURTON
Yes, but I was not questioning whether they were new works, old works, repairs or whatever they were. What I was saying was that in real terms, as opposed to money terms, the cut is 45 to 50 per cent. It may be 20 per cent. of what was last year's money, but it is 45 to 50 per cent. in real terms owing to the rise in costs since last year. As luck would have it, the Government while in Opposition were suggesting that the A.9, the Perth to Inverness road, should be dualled. This road, being vital to oil production, has been saved from the axe and should have good stretches of dual carriageway over the most difficult lengths, so that the remainder can be dualled fairly easily in the future. Even here there has been a marked slowing up in the last few months in progress in getting schemes under way. The noble Lord shakes his head, but I have spent a lot of time at the receiving end.
The survey for the length of road from the Perth-Inverness county boundary to Dalwhinnie has been in the hands of the Development Department for some months now. This is the worst portion of the whole of this road for getting blocked in times of snow. It is not the snow that blocks the road; it is the vehicles which perhaps should not be on the road, which get themselves stuck in the snow and then have to be got out of it. It is therefore vital that this length 995 of road is dualled. In the event of a snowstorm one of the carriageways could be closed and vehicles that are going to get blocked in can get themselves blocked on the other one; then, when the snowstorm is over, we have a road which can be easily cleared. It is vital, if this money we are spending on the rest of the road is not to be wasted, that this particular section—and it is not a very difficult section—should be dualled. I hope that if the noble Lord is unable to answer this evening he will take a very careful look to see whether something can be done about this. I rather fear that the delay in giving us an answer is because there may be thoughts of cutting it from a dual to a single carriageway—a financial decision rather than a sensible one.
There is one piece of good news about this road: an eleven-mile contract between Dalwhinnie and Newtonmore has at last been let and is proceeding extremely well. At the present time over £10,000 per day is being spent on this piece of road on earthworks alone, and if the contractors continue to make such splendid progress before long we shall have a good stretch of eleven miles. Before leaving the subject of the A.9, perhaps I might say that it would be appropriate if the new bridge at Carr Bridge were opened by the noble Lord who is so interested in it—and I am sorry he has left the Chamber, because he might have been invited to come and cut the ribbon!
From what your Lordships have heard to-day it might be imagined that the A.9 is the worst trunk road in the country; but I am afraid it is not. By far the worst trunk road in the country is the Mallaig road. Fair progress was being made on this road under the last regime. It is now carrying extremely heavy traffic. Mallaig is a boom town for fishing and you get these huge articulated lorries rattling along trying to get the fish away fresh to the East coast. When there is a touch of frost in the morning, for morning after morning this road is blocked by enormous great lorries jack-knifing. That is not only a problem on this particular road, but it is particularly bad on this road. I wonder whether it is in any way possible for these large vehicles to be kept off the road in certain adverse conditions, when they are extremely dan- 996 gerous. The police seem to think they have no powers to ban them at the moment, but it would be very useful if the police could be given powers to ban them from the roads in certain conditions.
Equally, on the Mallaig road, when substantial tourist traffic is mixed in with the commercial traffic, then the trouble really begins. This area is a particularly beautiful one and a large number of caravans travel along this road. In another month's time it will really be chaos. We have the schemes ready to go forward and it is just a question of whether we shall be allowed to let them go. A year ago everything was set to go. I hope that the Minister will take a close look at this. If he is in any doubt about the wisdom of stopping it, I would suggest that he should take a drive along this road during the summer months. He would soon change his mind and would be all in favour of finding money from somewhere to improve this particular road.
We all appreciate that finance is short, but there are very substantial delays in getting contract work started. It takes far longer to get the paperwork going than is the case with the actual work on the site. It seems that our system is inefficient. Schemes that go up for approval to various places seem to get stuck on one desk after another. As Chairman of our Roads Committee, I have found it particularly frustrating to find that no progress is being made on scheme after scheme. This fact does not apply in regard to any particular Government, because we get more and more bogged down as bureaucracy increases and the working week gets shorter and shorter. I found myself always asking where the various schemes had got to and on whose desk they were sitting, and could they be chased up.
My Lords, if at any time in the future all Scottish business has to go through St. Andrew's House, heaven help Scotland! This seems to be an unanswerable argument against Scottish nationalism. because we shall then get completely bogged down. One inevitable delay point is the district valuer's office. Here the land for new roads has to be acquired. Here we have had what is to my mind a false economy because the district valuer in the North, despite of enormous 997 oil development in the North Sea, has had his staff cut. It is no fault of his, but there are very substantial delays caused because of that cut. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, would be good enough to look at this matter to see whether something cannot be done to speed things up. Perhaps I might also ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, whether he would see how it might be possible to improve efficiency, and how the administration might be improved, and, what is more, whether it may be possible to save expense while doing so.
As an example, the administration of our system of piers and ferries is absolutely chaotic. Your Lordships have been given one example of bad administration by my noble friend Lord Glenkinglas in respect of one of the Argyllshire islands. We have far too many agencies dealing with transport, and in particular with sea transport. An example of this is the proposed ferry to the small island of Vatersay with a population of about fifty. The first and obvious thing was to try to find a suitable boat. Having found what we thought was a suitable boat we spent 18 months battling with the Board of Trade, and were eventually told that it was not suitable. So we found another boat of a different type, and battled for another nine months—only to be told at the end of it that the boat could be used in calm waters, and it was agreed that the boat should be purchased. Then, after more than two years of struggling with the Board of Trade, we asked for grant aid for the terminals, and the Scottish Economic Planning Department, who now look after this aspect, refused it. We really felt that if we were not going to get it anyway we might have been told before we got the boat. That is the sort of thing one has to put up with. That example covers three of the agencies involved: the local authority, the Board of Trade and the Scottish Economic Planning Department.
Then on many of the ferries one gets involved with that collection of retired bus operators, the Scottish Transport Group. I could give your Lordships some wonderful examples of the lack of planning by this Group; but I must at the same time congratulate the Government on setting up a special Committee 998 of the House of Commons which I believe is very shortly to look into this Group. Perhaps we shall then be able to iron out some of the problems with them. Apart from all the other agencies, there are various private operators, including Caledonian MacBraynes—and perhaps the less said of them the better—and the local authorities. Now we are to have new local authorities. Up to now many of the ferry services ran between the same authorities—Ross-shire went across to Stornaway, and so on. Inverness and Argyll had their own service. Now there are to be separate Island authorities and we shall have further delays by having two authorities, one at each end of the terminal, which will cause further confusion. There are different pier owners. We know what has happened in Rothesay, where we are still held up.
At the end of all this, we have what is supposed to be an appeal body called the Scottish Transport Users' Consultative Committee. It seems impossible to meet them. Then, to cap it all, we have the Highlands Development Board, and if you really want to get things in a muddle—but I will leave that comment unfinished. Unfortunately, they call themselves the "Principal Advisor on Transport to the Secretary of State". I would suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, that this is one thing which might be looked at so that it might be made more efficient. If it is possible, perhaps it would be desirable to have a new body altogether. The local people, who would like these services and are involved, get very frustrated, and I hope that a single body to co-ordinate and co-operate will be set up. What they really want is a short sea crossing such as we have been trying to get for some time now between North Uist and Harris. That would be an enormous advantage.
My noble friend Lord Haig mentioned small buses. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, could do something to expedite those postal minibus services which have so far worked extremely well elsewhere. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, referred to camouflaging those roads with trees, but equally, I feel that we must be careful that they do not have to run down green tunnels, as is rather liable to happen now. We are getting so many thick coniferous plantations 999 alongside all our roads that we shall not be able to see anything at all.
Finally, may I make one small plea for the small communities in the Highlands. There are still a number which have no road at all. I walked out the other day to a small community in Harris. They are trying to improve their houses, but all the bricks and mortar, and everything else, has to be carried out over a track for a considerable distance. There is no road. They suffered the cuts just as seriously as the rest of us. It is a comparatively small amount of money and I think that people with no roads should be given special preference.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
My Lords, may I first thank the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, for leading off one more Scottish debate, and though saying much that is in the minds of most of us, it has to be reiterated to a certain extent and can be slightly enlarged. I agree with him particularly regarding thinking big and thinking modern. We in the West Highlands must he in a unique position of inconvenience so far as the main forms of mobility of passengers and freight are concerned, since very long distances are further complicated by large patches of water splattered over the map of that region which often increases an otherwise simple journey into an aggravatingly long and tiresome one, especially in inclement times. Even after accepting the fact one often has to drive round the heads of inland and sea lochs rather than across the narrowest sections by bridge, one is still faced with the lack of main roads (let alone side ones) capable of handling modern traffic, the famous example being the A.9 which is now well out of date before it has been completed. Failing this, the Highland railway system, which the Minister of Transport has accepted to be a social service rather than an economic one, should accept a far wider variety of freight and suitable rolling stock for it than is the case now, for all the few roads are cluttered with huge lorries and slow-moving tourist traffic, a combination of which is lethal in this ultra-different landscapes, this super-rural hill country.
My Lords, when I started to assemble ideas for this Scottish debate, it became obvious that it was no good to present it 1000 in the old "have-not" formula. It has to tell of the past, present and future, although not necessarily in that order. There is little doubt that if the two main Parties, Labour and Conservative, continue to regard the Highlands as, "Too far away, with too few people, to always matter", that area might well follow the lead of the Lowlands and cause a rift in their political allegiances by turning to the Scottish Nationalists for help. This would be tragic, especially if it led to a massive move to independence. Therefore it must be averted.
The Highlands is as yet part of the United Kingdom, but because it is a very large area, with a very small population, it is constantly being short-changed so far as vitally essential basic development is concerned. I do not want to see Scotland break away from England. It is a family tradition that we wish to retain the Union. As far back as 1703 my great-grandfather's great grandfather, the Earl of Hopetoun of the time, was an ardent supporter of the Union between England and Scotland, and belonged to an illustrious group of leaders, which included the Marquess of Tweeddale and Sir John Clerk of Penicuik who were convinced of the advantages of the Anglo-Scottish alliance. My noble kinsman even went so far as to have his Palace of Hopetoun enlarged in order to gain something of the same splendour that he had found in English country houses. In the year of 1721 William Adam was called in and given his instructions. That is history. I have no wish to change it for the worse. I only seek to continue that tradition and to see that those far-seeing men were justified in taking the political line that they did in those days so long ago. Alliances, though, are usually based upon mutual help and understanding, so if one partner drags his feet the others may suffer.
So far as the Highlands are concerned. I feel that better, faster progress could be made in the purely fundamental issues such as the supports of every-day life. If these requirements are denied to one section of the Union and granted to others, can it be surprising that there exists so much discontent with Government—any traditional United Kingdom Government? I should not like this House to think that I am ungrateful for the industries that have been set up in the Highlands, but it would be unrealistic of me to ignore the fact that the primary 1001 necessities of the people who live there, and the needs of the newly arrived personnel, are sadly lacking.
My noble friend Lord Lauderdale—and I do not see him in his place—often refers to my speeches as idealistic. But that is not really so, for when I speak in this House upon the subject of the Highlands and its requirements, I do so far its betterment and not to try to push it into a corner of Utopia. We, who live there, know full well that it has more than its fair share of drawbacks that no Government could possibly alter due to its mountainous and cut-off nature. However, there are considerations that should be seriously and speedily rectified in order that a rather better life can be made for its inhabitants.
Not enough is being done, and that, too slowly. Communications in this 20th century are really pitiful, and this is soon shown up in times of strikes and winter conditions, when people suddenly find themselves totally marooned by having so few types of alternative transport and routes. Is it not time that the very advanced state of United Kingdom technology could be put to use in this realm? May I suggest hover-power particularly, so far as fuel economy is concerned? I hasten to add that I must declare an interest in this principle, and only wish that every United Kingdom Government did, too.
Unlike the conventional railway track, the hover-train can travel on a single rail and this can be supported on simple pillars that can be let into any terrain, thus rendering sleepers and metalling obsolete on the so-called permanent way. What could be more straightforward? Yet, why do successive British Governments persistently ignore and starve the development and promotion of the hover-power concept? It really is unbelievable. We have a British invention steadily being eroded by foreigners who have quickly realised its vast potential for inexpensive moving of heavy equipment over a wide variety of surfaces. Yet we are forced to stand by and let our advanced technology wither away for lack of more Government encouragement. That is very sad. It is vital in these troubled times to utilise every form of modern and ultra-modern development that Britain has to offer. Who knows, perhaps our scientists will come up with silent and fumeless trains, motor 1002 cars, lorries and other forms of transport? How acceptable that would be! Yet to accomplish such things Government initiative and constructive support will really have to get a move on. What about the highly economical power-assisted horizontal fly-wheel motive unit that will push a fully loaded bus up hill and down dale with only the occasional pep-up help of a tiny four-stroke engine? It seems worth while considering.
With the massive amount of research that has gone into modern types of transport, is it not about time that a halt is called so that some of the positive findings could be put into practice? Research for research's sake can be a dreadful drain on Government monies when, as now, the United Kingdom has its back to the wall in the fields of fuel and expensive methods of moving people and freight for long, as well as short, journeys. By now the boffins of Britain must have enough workable data to produce a practical branch-line hovertrain, steam car, linear motor-driven locomotives, supermassive freight hovercraft, and a variety of other vital machines, some of which should be brought forward to save this country from being ripped apart economically. This country of ours is in trouble, and it is no use denying it. We have led the world with inventions for many generations but, time and time again, our prowess at this art has had to find its final manufacture and use in other countries, especially the United States of America; thus we are the loser in a really big way. This drift must stop, and one way to stop it is to freeze monies in certain sectors and divert them to the more practical use of building the equipment, not just researching it. We do not have a lot of time.
For the small inventor of this country we need a Ministerial department that can supply money and expert advice leading to manufacture, and possibly a repayment scheme at a later date should a machine prove to be financially successful. We cannot afford to ignore the little man and his brainchild, made from tin cans and bits of wire, for who will ever forget the trials and tribulations of Sir Christopher Cockerell in his stunning discovery of the hover-power principle? I think that modern land transport, public and freight, will soon have to run on elevated monorails which will do away 1003 with the need for the terrifying destruction that increasing, wide motorways are doing to the farming community throughout the nation. We have the know-how. Let us build one in the virgin country of the West Highlands, perhaps instead of a road.
England is criss-crossed with major motorways that have torn villages apart and made life intolerable for people living nearby. Let Scotland learn from her mistakes and not fall into the same folly. We must be allowed to diversify in our own methods of getting from A to B. Of course we shall need dual carriageways, especially if we are offered no alternatives, but they must be few, kept clear of populations, and be fed by well-paved spur roads. Without a general speed-up in innovationary methods to improve the requirements and needs of the Highland economy, concerning industry, farming and fishing, we shall find ourselves in real trouble. With our new developing industries and old rural ones we must have the ways of coping with them, on a par with England at least; and that means modern, fast and efficient movement of people and all types of freight the whole length and breadth of the country, in all weathers, not just for part of it, in some. My Lords, it should not be necessary for me to stand here to-day to ask for proper communications, for they should be part and parcel of any new or improved town, sea or countryside industry. To use a modern phrase: a package deal from the drawing-board onwards.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ LORD GAINFORD
My Lords, first of all, it gives me great pleasure, which is literally trebled, to congratulate our maiden speakers to-day; to thank them for their magnificent contribution to this debate, and to wish them long, happy and successful careers in your Lordships' House. I also wish to congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, on initiating this debate with a most exciting and inspiring opening speech. I also have to add my apologies because, owing to an evening engagement, I may not be able to remain long after I sit down. To the noble Lord. Lord Hughes, I speak with gratitude. I hope that I heard him correctly—he will no doubt say whether I am wrong—and that he gave us an assur- 1004 ance that, for the time being, no closure of Scottish railways is being contemplated. That assurance will be received with great gratitude by many people living in Scotland.
I noted with interest that in the list of speakers I was following my noble friend Lord Rankeillour, because last year on March 7, in a debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, both my noble friend and I pleaded for the retention of railway services in the Western Highlands, particularly the line from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh, the line from Glasgow to Fort William and on to Mallaig, and the line from Oban to Crianlarich. I am particularly grateful for the assurance, because I had heard talk that the line from Oban to Crianlarich was likely to be next under the axe of estimated economy. May I ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, whether there is any possibility of a further assurance that, should any line be forced to close, the track will remain for a certain period in case any body of persons, public or private, could possibly put it to use, or because it might be found possible, owing to demand, to reactivate the line?
Many persons still grieve the loss of the beautiful railway between Connel Ferry and Balachulish. The 30 miles of track could have been used, for example, by some of these interested groups of railway enthusiasts who keep railway history alive by maintaining steam trains in working order. Trains on that Balachulish line could have been a wonderful draw to the tourist industry in that part of the world; but, in spite of all the pleas and protests, that line was closed and the closure was made irrevocable by very quick taking up of the track. I can only suppose that the reason for this was that magnificent bridge over the tidal race at Connel Ferry, known as the Falls of Lora. While the railway was in operation the bridge carried the single track of the railway and a single line of road traffic. Taking up the track quickly enabled the bridge to be used for two-way road traffic, obviating all the expense of building another bridge over that bit of sea.
The next matter to which I turn is air transport. I believe that a number of your Lordships know my interest in 1005 the possibility of reviving airships, though nothing like the old Zeppelins that used to be constructed. I think I mentioned this matter three times in your Lordships' House during debates last year, and I can say that since then some progress has definitely been made in research into this matter, so that the ideals of last year are, at any rate, now a step or two closer to becoming a reality. Research into airship design and potential shows that airships will be economical on fuel; their ability to take off and land vertically—an operation which will be almost silent—will not require large, land-consuming runway complexes.
Even if half-a-dozen airships were constructed within the near future, they could form welcome connections with centres of Scottish industry and the Highlands and Islands, and affect the sense of isolation which the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, mentioned—that would begin to disappear. It could also greatly reduce the amount of freight on the roads. Therefore, if it were possible to develop even a single aircraft of this kind that could take large loads efficiently, fast and economically, and not need an airport, the demonstration of its contribution to Scottish industry and economy would be impressive. Moreover, such airships could themselves be manufactured in Scotland, utilising traditional shipbuilding skills and providing jobs for Scottish engineers of all kinds. I would ask Her Majesty's Government to take particular note of the potential of airships. And might the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, send a message to the right honourable gentleman the Minister for Industry about the contribution which they could provide?
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, might I ask the noble Lord what would happen with an airship if one had a 100 m.p.h. gale, as one often does in the West of the Highlands? I think that an airship would come off worse.
§ LORD GAINFORD
My Lords, that is an interesting question, since the estimated speed of the new airship is about 100 m.p.h. If there were such a wind blowing, that flight would have to be cancelled. Airships, like other forms of air transport, still suffer from meteorological conditions. But I mention the airship only in passing. These ideals are 1006 matters for the future, however close that future may be. While they are being developed there are still very urgent matters of the present to be attended to, among them the problems facing farming communities in the Western Highlands.
For example, I wish to speak about the community of the village of Tayvallich in Argyllshire. It lies about 12 miles South-West by road from Lochgilphead, an important town in the district. It is a great tourist attraction in summer with visitors coming by land and sea, the caravan sites well-filled, as is the bay, part of Loch Sween, which is one of the most sheltered anchorages on the West Coast of Scotland. Well within a mile across the narrow strip of land, thanks to which the village is just on the mainland, is the Sound of Jura and Carsaig, where there are a few farms and dwellings, and at least one more caravan site in summer. I have known Tayvallich for 40 years come next year. For most of the first 20 years, it was my permanent home address. I still have ties with it, since my mother lives there and so does one of my brothers who is a farmer.
Before rail travel became much faster, and before the institution of a regular air service between London and Glasgow, travel to Tayvallich was slow but adventurous. The nearest railway stations are Oban, 40 miles to the North, and Arrochar, 60 miles away, where the Glasgow to Fort William line crosses the Glasgow to Campbeltown road. The main daily communication between Glasgow and Lochgilphead is a twice-daily bus service, formerly operated by MacBraynes—who have come in for some scathing comments in this debate and in Question Time—and now by Western S.M.T. But a pleasanter passenger and freight service was MacBraynes' steamer from Gouroch to Ardrishaig, two miles South of Lochgilphead, the port for the district and also the Eastern end of the Crinan Canal. This service depended a little on the weather, but it was not often that it had to be cancelled.
The main hazard to travellers from England, like myself, in bygone years, was in being able to reach Glasgow in time to catch the train to Gourock. That steamer service has now, most regrettably, been abolished and hardly any steamers at all call at Ardrishaig. It was most 1007 useful for carrying passengers and freight—and I do not know the economic reasons for cancelling it—and if there is any possibility of its being reinstated it will be extremely welcome. Between Tayvallich and Lochgilphead and Ardrishaig there is a mini-bus service which takes outgoing and incoming mail once a day. One recent advantage from a change in the service is that the daily incoming mail to Tayvallich is now delivered at about mid-day instead of at about tea time. Heavy freight, particularly cattle, used to be delivered as near as possible to individual homes and farms, so long as there were roads that the lorries could manage. Before the war, there were several private companies, and I remember one called Clyde Cargo. In the late 'forties, nationalisation came into force and all large road haulage companies became part of British Road Services.
At first, the nationalised road transport showed signs of being a great success, but gradually the reliability decreased. Apart from private companies operating small lorries with very limited cargo capacity, so great is the difficulty for farmers to obtain transport for their cattle that it is being said that British Road Services do not seem to care. I am choosing my words very carefully. Whatever Parliamentary privilege may permit, I do not want to make any suggestion—let alone anything approaching an accusation—that is unjust. Very likely, if any official of British Road Services were confronted with such a statement he could prove it wrong and show that all the lorries and drivers were working their utmost, and that they did not have enough staff or equipment to meet all the demands. The laws of carriage of cattle require the lorries to be fitted with special equipment. These laws are sensible for the matter of health, humane treatment of animals and safety, but they add a further factor towards the heavy expense of hiring these vehicles and transporting cargoes over long distances.
My Lords, I have no claim to being an expert on economics, but I know that the farmers in many West Highlands districts are finding it more and more difficult to make ends meet. They must not be penalised merely because they live in far away places. Whether near or far, the 1008 Scottish farmer plays a leading role in Scotland's economy. I beg Her Majesty's Government to take action. This is not just a matter to be looked into; a close examination is needed. If there is lack of equipment, can it be provided! If there is a shortage of drivers for road vehicles, can some means be found of encouraging them to work in the Highlands? There is still a misconception that life there is lonely. But it need not be. I am not asking for the impossible to be achieved, or for a miracle to be performed overnight. What I ask is that Scottish farmers should be given some immediate encouragement, so that they know their work is appreciated and can feel confident to carry on working where they are now. Otherwise, if circumstances force the farmers to move, the scenery of the Highlands, while retaining its beauties, will also include derelict farms each one being the sign of an unhappy failure.
To close, my Lords, I should like to recall once again the debate that I mentioned on March 7, 1973, and the words of my noble friend Lord Rankeillour about the fearful threat should the removal of any form of transport from any district be contemplated. He said:Cut off a right hand and the left will seek justice, but cut off a head and the body will die."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7/3/73; col. 1234.]
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, like the rest of your Lordships I am grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, for having introduced this debate, which has produced so many interesting speeches. Early on, when I knew that I should have to speak, I thought that after some 18 or 20 speakers most of the subjects would have been adequately covered. Needless to say, I have been proved right in that view. However, I decided that whether or not it had been covered—which, obviously, it would have been—I would still plug on about the infrastructure of the North-East; in particular, in relation to the oil industry in that part of Scotland. I shall still do that, because although the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, gave us reassurances, I was not quite certain whether they were complete reassurances or whether they were perhaps subject to a "little bit here and little bit there". 1009 Before continuing, I must add my tributes to the three noble Lords who have made their maiden speeches to-day. Of course from an ex-Secretary of State we no doubt expected the fine, polished performance that my noble friend Lord Glenkinglas gave us; and needless to say we on this side of the House are delighted to get such an accession of strength. I should also like to pay a personal tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Erskine of Rerrick, a friend of mine for many years, and under whose chairmanship I served for many years on the Scottish board of a well-known security company. The Liberal Party also are to be very much congratulated on their new recruit to this House in the form of my Angus neighbour, Lord Mackie of Benshie. I congratulate him sincerely.
As is obvious, my Lords, the oil scene has slightly dominated the transport view of this debate. This is right, because it is owing to this transformation of the Scottish scene that the decline in employment and loss of population by emigration which was so bad in the 'sixties is now over, and the trend is reversed.
Most of the administration of the activity in this new industry will be centred around and in Aberdeen. Most of the servicing of the various oil rigs will also be based on Aberdeen. So it is essential to develop both the airport and the harbour there.
§ THE EARL OF CROMARTIE
My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend for one moment? He seems to have forgotten that one of the main oil-rig building area happens to be in my county at Nigg, and we may even have more on the West coast if we are not careful.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, I take the point raised by my noble friend. The functions of administration and servicing have to be at Aberdeen, although I was going on to say that places like Dundee, Montrose and Peterhead would also no doubt play a supporting role in these functions. However, Aberdeen is undoubtedly becoming the offshore capital of Europe. Some 200 companies which are directly involved in servicing the oil industry are already there, and some 300 more which are already there are partially involved. These are new companies which have come in. Thus in Aberdeen the unemployment rate 1010 of 1.4 per cent. is one of the lowest in the whole country.
When we were in office we had planned various items of expenditure, which I will go into in a moment. When we had our cuts in expenditure just before this last New Year, we specifically exempted from those cuts anything to do with the oil industry or the infrastructure thereof. I want to ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, whether he agrees with the items that I am going to mention as being part of the oil infrastructure because we considered them to be germane to this point and therefore we decided to exempt them.
First, we intended to spend £1 million in improvements to the harbour at Aberdeen and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will confirm that this work is still going ahead, as well as improvements at Peterhead, to which we had allotted £3 million. We were also improving the harbours at Montrose and Wick and Lerwick. As I think most noble Lords know, we had planned to spend some £60 million on improving our old friend the A.9 between Perth and Invergordon and we were also going to spend £22 million on the M.80 between Glasgow and Stirling, all basically essential for the growing oil industry. We were also spending some £16 million on fast, safe feeder roads between Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness involving trunk construction and major improvements to the Dundee—Forfar—Stonehaven A.94 road. Most of these improvements were desirable anyway and, my heavens! how many disgruntled Scotsmen and frustrated tourists have said "Hear, hear" to this scheme.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, we were going ahead as fast as we had the labour force to do it. I cannot give off the cuff at this moment the exact answer as to how long it would all have taken, but—
§ LORD HOY
My Lords, I do not want to be pedantic about it, but the noble Lord said that they were going to spend £66 million on a particular part of the 1011 road. Surely we are entitled to know over what period of time he was going to spend this and not merely to be told that it was subject to allocation of materials, or labour or anything else. Obviously, the Government of the day had planned it and therefore the noble Lord must know over what period the money was to be spent.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, I think my right honourable friend Mr. Gordon Campbell said it was going to be done as fast as we could do it, but the point I was making was that it was specifically exempted from the cuts which we made. There is only a limited labour force in the country, and as the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, knows full well, we were giving full priority. We were cutting corners in planning; we were not dilly-dallying at all. Indeed, we were being accused by some noble Lords of my Party and by some noble Lords on the other side of the House of cutting corners. Therefore I do not think we can be accused of not wishing to go ahead. We were planning to do it as swiftly as we could.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I am rather interested in this point because I may be able to make use of it. Would the noble Lord be good enough to give an example of the cutting of corners in planning which he was undertaking in this connection?
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
My Lords, I think the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, knows what I was referring to. We were discussing the planning of some of the oil rigs on the West Coast, for instance.
§ LORD HUGHES
I see, my Lords. The noble Lord was referring to legislation in regard to Drumbuie; I thought he was referring to cutting corners for the planning of the A.9.
§ LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON
No, my Lords, I was just giving that as an example of the fact that we were wishing to get ahead. I am sorry if I misled your Lordships. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, can reassure us that these road schemes will not be affected and I hope his right honourable friend the Secretary of State, Mr. Ross, will not copy his other right honourable friend 1012 Mr. Mulley in making some new roads and improvements "smaller and cheaper", as he told us last Monday. All these construction programmes must go on as planned if full use is to be obtained from the new industrial boom which is about to hit Scotland.
Similarly, we were carrying out much needed improvements at Inverness, Aberdeen and Sunburgh airports. I was at Sunburgh last September and can personally vouch for the need for a new terminal building there. All these works together are essential for the infrastructure for North Sea oil if it is to be efficient and if the industry is to produce its goods both quickly and economically. I am sure your Lordships know that the Highlands and Islands Development Board published a Moray Firth access transport study which argued the case very well that some £7½ million investment was urgently needed to improve the rail link between Perth and Inverness. I shall be interested to know whether the noble Lord the Minister of State can tell us anything further about this matter. As he knows, at the moment the Perth-Inverness line is not capable of allowing trains to travel at a sufficient speed nor to have trains running two ways as most of the line is single track. Several noble Lords have made the point that the freight which could be carried on this line could be of considerable significance. The future needs of the Moray Firth area will need careful thought and rapid action if the growth rate is not to be stultified.
Probably most of us in this House tonight have recently enjoyed seeing work start on the new runway at Turnhouse after my right honourable friend Mr. Gordon Campbell had given his approval for the work to go ahead. At the moment I suspect that many Scots and foreign businessmen in the North go abroad via London, as some noble Lords have pointed out. I hope it may be possible for the airlines to introduce new direct international flights from Scottish airports. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has any further information about the £23 million Scottish helicopter network with 10 aircraft and some 18 heliports at all existing towns served by B.E.A., together with Fort William, Aviemore, Oban and Dundee, which the project manager of British Airways Helicopters Limited produced in March this year. 1013 The Sikorski F.65 helicopter carrying 44 passengers at 155 knots could be available, I understand, if the scheme started soon, in two years' time.
I am advised that a similar modernisation of all these airfields and new equipment for fixed wing aircraft might cost £100 million and take up to ten years, as well as passengers' convenience and saving of time of transport in the towns concerned, because the heliports could, if required, be more central than the main airports. These helicopters could be used for such jobs as loadlifting, power line inspection, lighthouse relief, pipelaying and even an air ambulance service. This might well be a most useful contribution to the future needs of Scottish transport, so I should be grateful if the noble Lord is able to tell me anything further of his thinking on that point.
My Lords, I should like to take up just one point. The noble Lord, Lord Hoy, was slightly scornful, I think, of the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Glenkinglas that putting more tax on already high priced petrol would add to costs in many areas of the country. I would make the point that ours has not been the Party which has been putting tax on petrol. I think his Party added 4d. in 1967-68 and 7d. in 1968-69, and of course V.A.T., which goes up every time the price of petrol goes up, has been added this year. The noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, and the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, also made a point about the cost of petrol, that of course the amount received by the oil sheiks (or whatever Government is getting the money) is still small compared with the amount which Governments such as ours take in tax. But I do not want to make a meal of this. It was no less a person than the present Prime Minister who, at the end of last year when the oil prices to us were going up heavily, suggested that a reduction in tax to offset the increase in the price of oil might he a good idea.
Up to date I am told that only about £200 million has actually been spent in Scotland on exploration of oil and the servicing of oil rigs. But in the next 10 years some £300 million will be spent every year on servicing and investment to produce the oil. I am not 1014 talking about profits. Scotland has only so far spent a trickle—£200 million so far, and from now on £300 million a year. The really big money is now coming in. Are we going to be ready for it? This we have to be sure about. We must get the infrastructure ready and right. In the words of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, "thinking big and thinking early" as the theme of this debate I think is good.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, it is now almost exactly six years since I have been answering debates on the Scottish economy and one of the interesting things is that after six years it seems to be the wish of your Lordships, by the number of questions put to me for answer, that you want my replying speech to be longer than my opening speech. The most useful parts of the debate, as I have already suggested to the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, who initiated it, fall into the category of fairly wide-ranging and concrete proposals which I would best serve the House by assuring them would be matters which I and my colleagues would look at carefully, and are not the subject for instant answer but rather the subject for careful consideration and, where possible, early operation. That I would propose to do, and I think it is the most appropriate way in which I could express the thanks of Her Majesty's Government to the noble Viscount.
The specific questions which were put for answer I must divide into three sections: those which are perhaps of a rather general nature, in which a number of noble Lords would be interested because they cover things which affect the whole country; secondly, those which are of a more local nature which can I think be most appropriately dealt with by writing to the noble Lord concerned in due course; and, thirdly, in order to cut down on time I do not propose to reply to questions put by noble Lords who are no longer here. That does not cut it down very much because most of them are still here.
My Lords, on the questions of fairly general nature, the first was put by the noble Viscount in his opening speech. This relates to the road crossing of the Dornoch Firth which he asked should be 1015 authorised straight away. The Government accept that this scheme is very desirable, but in our view it must follow the reconstruction of the A.9 between Perth and Invergordon; nevertheless, to allow progress to be made with preliminary studies, traffic surveys on roads in the area are now being made and the hydrological study of Dornoch Firth is being put in hand.
My noble friend Lord Hoy incited the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, to come back to the Edinburgh by-pass, but then he had to go for another engagement and the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, felt that he would have rather to leave the point alone, so we were saved a few minutes there. I should, however, say to both noble Lords that roads within Edinburgh are matters for the corporation and as has been said, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, the Government made a 50 per cent. grant to the cost of the Edinburgh planning and transport study team because of the tie-up with the trunk road network outside the city boundary; but until the corporation have submitted formal proposals for consideration by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of State has no locus.
Informal discussions are taking place at official level and an official Working Party set up in February 1973 reported to the corporation in February this year. We understand that the corporation are concentrating their attention on a short stretch of by-pass in the Colinton area. So the noble Lord having gone at it for a very long time perhaps may say that this is a small sprat that he has caught at last; the big catch still remains for the future.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, I regard half a by-pass as similar to a tunnel that goes only half-way through a hill.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, the noble Lord exaggerates. I do not want him to think, because he has not got the whole by-pass, that really he only has a hole at the end of the tunnel.
On the subject of Carrbridge I was amused when my noble friend raised the question of this bridge. I received a letter from a Member of Parliament—and in order to have no risks with another place I will not say who it was—in which he passed on the views of the local people, 1016 saying that because of the interference with tourist traffic we ought not to go ahead with this scheme until the holiday season was over. My reply came to me for signature on the day on which the Scotsman published the photograph showing that the bridge in fact had collapsed. So it was absolutely essential to go ahead with the other operations. I let my letter go, giving reasons why we were going ahead, and then added a postcript in my own fair hand: "I enclose for your information a copy of the photograph in to-day's Scotsman". I gather that one result of it being raised to-day is that the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, is to be invited to open the bridge; that is, if the noble Lord, Lord Burton, has any influence in these matters—not evidenced recently, I regret to say, on his behalf in the Election results.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, had many questions to put. I am answering quite a number of these because they were all of a general nature. On the question of dual carriageways on the Perth-Aberdeen road, for the purposes of long-term planning we envisage the strategic route from Perth should be via Dundee, Forfar, Brechin and Stonehaven, because it will thus be possible to take heavy through-traffic out of Perth, and because the topography of parts of the coastal road between Dundee and Stonehaven prevents the road from readily being brought up to the standard we would ultimately like to achieve for a strategic through-route. Between Perth and Dundee, the dual carriageways on the A.85 are virtually built. The last section just East of Perth, which will connect with the new bridge over the Tay at Frairton, and thus with the M.90, is being built at present. It should be completed early in 1977.
Schemes are also being prepared for providing dual carriageways on the Western part of the Kingsway in Dundee, while there are only two sections of dual carriageway between Stonehaven and Aberdeen which still have to be completed. One at Cammachmore is under construction, and proposals for the other, just South of the Aberdeen boundary, have been advertised. On the section between Dundee and Stonehaven, the A.929/A.94, we have had to balance the need for speed and the known short-term requirements against the ideal standards, 1017 which would be much more costly and must take considerably longer to achieve. Therefore, it seems to us that the allround needs of the situation will be best met by continuing a series of improvements on the A.929 between Dundee and Forfar, and on the A.94 between Forfar and Stonehaven, to provide a 24-foot single carriageway with a hard strip one metre wide on either side. (I do not like this mixture of footage and "metreage", but that is the way it is here) plus bypassing of local communities where necessary. To implement this intention, several major improvements, including a by-pass of Brechin costing £1¼ million, are now under construction and further schemes, including a by-pass of Forfar, Laurencekirk and Stonehaven are being prepared.
§ LORD FORBES
My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me for interrupting, he said that the improvement will be made. It is disappointing that it will not be dual carriageway. Can the noble Lord give any indication as to when the improvement between Dundee and Stonehaven is likely to be completed? That is what really matters.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, "as soon as resources and labour will make it possible." The noble Lord, Lord Forbes, raised a rather interesting point about charter air services. We should like to think about this but obviously this is a matter primarily for the travel trade itself.
On the subject of regional development having to mitigate abnormally high freight rates, as your Lordships will know the European Regional Development Fund has not got far at present, and notwithstanding the encouragement from the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, that we should be profligate in relation to mortgaging our future, I do not at this stage contemplate spending the money which we have not yet got from that Fund.
§ THE EARL OF LAUDERDALE
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord for involving me in the Regional Development Fund, which I regard as being just as symbolic as the whole Common Market. The noble Lord will know that better than I do. But is there not a case for spending some money now 1018 on paper preparation, engineering preparation, for which the money could be provided when noble Lords are in a better mood than to-day to mortgage our future?
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I still have that to answer. As a matter of fact, I had the noble Lord's question on the reserve list in case he did not come back. With regard to Aberdeen Airport and who will run it, the C.A.A. or the B.A.A., there is a strong case for the airport, together with the other main Scottish airports, to be brought under single management with a clearly defined Scottish identity. The Government are currently considering proposals to achieve this objective, and I hope a decision will not be long delayed on this matter.
With reference to proper customs facilities at Aberdeen Airport, I understand that, because of the rapidly increasing volume of international traffic, something is going to be done about this matter. I am sorry it has not reached the stage of decision which would enable me to say to-day what exactly is going to be done. I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, will be disappointed with the decision when announced.
Turning to the point on radar at Aberdeen, this is a matter for the Civil Aviation Authority. They are currently reviewing the requirement for regulated airspace at the airport. If regulated airspace were to be reduced, it would be necessary to provide suitable radar which would take about a year to install. The noble Lord asked what were the plans for Aberdeen Airport. The major need at the airport is for a completely new terminal, with a new apron, taxiways and other facilities. B.A.A. have drawn up a scheme which might cost between £5 million and £6 million. The Government are considering these proposals as a matter of urgency.
§ LORD FORBES
My Lords, I think the point there is to make quite certain that the plan which has been drawn up by the B.A.A. is the one adopted. What happens if the Civil Aviation Authority continues to run Aberdeen Airport?
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I do not think the noble Lord should encourage me to find obstacles. The noble Earl, Lord Haig, referred to the Borders economy because, naturally, much of 1019 what we have been talking about has been in the Highlands and in the oil areas. The economy of the Borders area is, in fact, expanding, and has been expanding strongly in recent years. New immigrant industries have been attracted to many of the Borders towns. Last month the unemployment rate was lower in the Borders than in the congested South-East, unlike earlier years when the unemployment in the Borders was artificially low because the unemployed went elsewhere to find work, and the rate was therefore kept down by emigration from the Borders. The position now is that immigration to the Borders has almost exactly balanced the emigration from it, so that for once the very low unemployment rate in the Borders is a real and very satisfactory figure.
The noble Earl, Lord Cromartie, used a rather interesting phrase about the noble Lord, Lord Beeching, and the misbegotten terms of reference which produced the Beeching Report. The noble Earl reminded me of what was once said by the Provest of Brechin, when Brechin lost its section of the line. He said that the Government of the day—the Conservative Government of the day. I hasten to add—asked Beeching to tell them how they could make a railway pay, and after careful examination Beeching came up with the conclusion that the only way to make it pay was not to have a railway. So the Government proceeded to go ahead on that basis.
The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, and the noble Earl, Lord Perth, both raised the question of the advantages of competition and the value of the small aircraft concerns. I think it would be appropriate in this connection if I paid a tribute to Loganair. They have been providing a growing range of local services over the last few years. They have had to contend with most of the problems faced by Scottish Airways, and a few more besides. The Loganair service makes a significant contribution to the economic well-being of many of the most remote communities, and their operations are conducted without the backing, either technical or financial, of a normal commercial network.
They show flexibility, resource, an intimate knowledge of local needs and a 1020 readiness to respond to them. They are a Scottish company with headquarters in Scotland, which is a matter of considerable importance at a time when not only we but all industrial countries are concerned with undue centralisation. We are very proud of our Scottish airline, and I should like to give an assurance that the Government will pay particular attention to the future arrangements for services on the routes they serve, for social and economic reasons rather than strictly commercial ones.
On the question of the expense to agriculture of freight, I should like to consider at greater length the points which the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, made. But the cost advantages of shipments in full lorry loads on roll-on/rolloff ferries—which are very difficult to achieve—contain a solution, particularly in the Islands. Many of the island farmers, of course, do not have full loads for themselves, and there is co-operation between them to make sure that lorries are used to the full capacity. It could reduce costs to them if existing organisations in the Islands encouraged greater co-operation in that direction and those larger cargoes could prove more economic by making greater use of puffer traffic, which still carries a fair proportion of fertilisers and loose feed. Consequent on that I should like to look at the wider aspect of what was raised.
The noble Earl, Lord Perth, raised the question of the effect of the Maplin project. As the House will know, the Government have set in hand a review of the Maplin project for the Third London Airport. This includes a study of the prospects of more intensive use of airports outside South-East England, including airports in Scotland, with the object of relieving the pressure of demand in the London area and lessening the imbalance of airport investment between London and elsewhere in the United Kingdom. If this serves the purpose of enabling Scots to cut out the journey by way of Heathrow, for which so many of your Lordships have asked, and conferring a benefit on the people who must use Heathrow, it becomes a double dividend from one course of action which could give encouragement to look at it as favourably as possible. The noble Earl, Lord Perth, also raised the question of Hunterston. The Secretary of State 1021 is at this time considering the whole future of the peninsula and hopes to make an announcement very soon. Consideration of all planning applications will be given in the context of that announcement. I must ask your Lordships to forgive me if, in these circumstances, I can say nothing more about Hunterston at the present time.
I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier: Why not a dual carriageway for the A.1—Edinburgh-Berwick-Newcastleon-Tyne—like the West Coast route? The answer is fairly simple. At the present time the A.1 carries a quarter of the traffic which uses the M.74–5,000 to 6,000 vehicles a day, compared to 22,000 to 24,000 a day on the West Coast. The A.1 also has a smaller proportion of heavy vehicles—12 to 14 per cent. of its traffic is heavy vehicles, against 16 to 19 per cent. on the West Coast route. So that while almost everyone who spoke on roads accepted the need to conserve capital expenditure in the present economic circumstances, they have at the same time found it necessary to call for more roads to be made immediately—that those which are to be single carriageway should be dual carriageway, and those on which nothing is being done should be started—if not today, then tomorrow or the next day. It does not add up. We must employ in the most useful way the money which can be made available.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, the noble Lord may have misunderstood. I do not think I pressed for a dual carriageway on the A.1. I said that it would come one day, and I went further and said that if Edinburgh had a by-pass that would defer the day, because you would not need a dual carriageway on the A.1 as the traffic could use the A.68 or the A.7.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I do not know for how many years the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, said he had been chasing us on this subject of the by-pass, but he might get better results if he started chasing the Edinburgh Corporation. I do not know what influence he has there, but he must have some friends on the Edinburgh Council, so it might not be a waste of time.
1022 The noble Lord, Lord Lyell, asked a question about the small integrated bus post-office service. I have noted with appreciation what he said about the Glen Lyon scheme, and the Post Office are going further into this matter, because it has proved a success. Where conditions are similar and where it can similarly lead to success, obviously it is desirable to go ahead with it. The noble Lord, Lord Lyell, also raised the question of co-ordination of bus and rail stations, which I think is very desirable. Unfortunately, at the time when there was a clamant need for a new bus station in Dundee, there was no opportunity for locating it beside the railway station. If the bus station could have been deferred, then as things have turned out it could have been located very conveniently next to the railway station because there were two railway stations together and we did away with one under the Beeching proposals. But by that time the bus station was complete.
The noble Lord, Lord Burton, was rather critical of the Government. I ought not to be saying this, because he has gone. He will not object, as he slanged the Government in my presence, if I return in his absence. When he was complaining about the frustrations of twenty-four months at the Board of Trade followed by three months in the Scottish Economic Planning Department, I noticed a rather broad smile on the face of his noble friend Lord Glenkinglas, because for at least some part of the time he was the responsible Minister at the Board of Trade and I wondered whether the thought was passing through his mind: why should this come up again on the day I have made my maiden speech in the House of Lords? At any rate, the noble Lord, Lord Burton, found it convenient to raise his complaints about this delay after three months of the present Government.
This brings me to the point which the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, raised about planning ahead. My Lords, it is very easy to make this suggestion, and it is easier still if one does not know just exactly what one has to go on, but I think it was either the noble Earl, Lord Cromartie, or the noble Lord, Lord Burton, who spoke of the fact that the time spent on paperwork before the road 1023 starts is longer than the actual time for making the road—it is up to three years on preliminaries and two and a half to three years to get a major road scheme carried into operation. One of the reasons why it takes so long is because of the number of people who have to be consulted, and if we were to attempt to go ahead with planning a road which is going to be started five years from now on the basis that everything should be done, we should annoy an awful lot of people.
We could do an awful lot of harm from the point of view of blighting people's businesses if we were talking about things before it can be absolutely certain that a road is going to go in a particular direction, and until we have gone through the proposals for getting the necessary agreements from people we cannot be certain where the road is going to go. So there is only a certain amount of work which can be done in advance of going ahead with the scheme. Where a road is unlikely to be the subject of challenge from landowners who do not want to part with their land, from landowners who do not want the road to go in a particular direction, or from communities who want it to go in a certain way, the planning can be done in the way for which the noble Earl asked. Unfortunately, as anyone with experience of this subject will know, there are a very limited number of cases where this is so.
§ THE EARL OF CROMARTIE
My Lords, in fact, that was not one of my questions. It was asked by my noble friend Lord Burton, and I know which bit of road it was about.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, on the A.9, for instance, a recent Press comment on the way in which the 23 schemes are progressing said that one of the most urgent of them, and the one that ought to be done first, is the by-passing of Pitlochry. There is a special unit dealing with the A.9 and I went along to look at it. There were 14 permutations by which Pitlochry could be bypassed, and it was only after examination of all the possibilities that it could be decided which was the preferred road. We have the complication that there are objections to the proposal from the Pitlochry town council and the Pitlochry 1024 district council, and if these objections are proceeded with there will be the complication that we shall be involved in special Parliamentary procedures in order to go ahead, which could delay this proposal for a very much longer time than would otherwise be the case. So it is not a case of bureaucracy pushing things from one desk to another; it is a case of the procedures which have to be followed. We cannot ride roughshod over individual's rights or communities' rights, and part of the price we have to pay is that it takes much longer than desirable to get things done.
§ THE EARL OF LAUDERDALE
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord for giving way. I appreciate his explanation but one or two roads were instanced, particularly those from Helmsdale up to the North Coast, and from Lairg up to Aviemore, which would involve interfering with a very small number of landowners and the problem of blight would probably not hurt them at all. Might it not be worth while in such cases to try to get the preparation going ahead, even though it will not happen for 10 years? I appreciate that in the more densely populated areas all the problems that the noble Lord mentioned are present.
§ LORD HUGHES
Yes, my Lords. I think that is a perfectly reasonable proposal. But in the absence of advance information about the roads, I cannot say whether or not that is being done. It is quite possible that that preparation is under way, because the basis on which this Government, and previous Governments, have worked is to have a rolling programme running five years ahead, so far as that can reasonably be done. But in certain cases one cannot take the programme to finality until one has actually determined the line of the road. In cases such as that. it may be that what is decided in 1974 as the likely line of a road is almost certain to remain the line on which the road will be constructed three or four or five years later, because of the circumstances which the noble Earl mentioned. However, I will examine what is being done on certain of these roads and will write to the noble Earl.
§ LORD GLENKINGLAS
My Lords, will the noble Lord be a little careful 1025 when studying this point? I know that in my own glen studies were made seven or eight times over 15 years. I shudder to think of the amount of money involved. Every time there was another engineer he did another study.
§ LORD HUGHES
Yes, my Lords, and obviously one wants to avoid that. I was very careful to limit what I said to the ones where there was certainty. I will note particularly the difficulties of Argyll. The noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, spoke about what the previous Government did in connection with North Sea oil and the exemption of these items from the Barber cuts. The answer is, Aberdeen Harbour, Yes; Peterhead Harbour, Yes; roads, Yes; airports, Yes; Montrose, funds, Yes, but it is held up by the Parliamentary Commission on Powers. So everything which the previous Government exempted from the cuts because of its connection with oil is continuing. The noble Lord said that what was being made available for the cost of the biggest of these, the A.9, was £60 million. This Government are prepared to find £110 million for the A.9, almost double the figure which the noble Lord quoted. This is in part due to the increased costs of the works, because this is a field in which costs have risen very considerably in the last 12 or 18 months.
I have never disguised my desire to have as much of this dual carriageway as possible, ideally all of it, but in existing circumstances the ideal is a little more difficult. In any event the need to get a satisfactory usable road at the earliest possible time means that it is in the best interests of North Sea oil use to do it as quickly as possible, and that means, for the greater part of, the single carriageway; but we have considerably increased the stretches which are to be dual carriageway, and it may be before we are finished some others will prove to be constructed on a dual carriageway basis right from the outset. This is where the engineering possibilities and so on make it the obvious thing to do at that time. But as was stated by the previous Government, and as I have confirmed for the present Government, the whole length of the road is being constructed on the basis that it will be possible in the future to add the second carriageway in those parts 1026 which are single carriageway in order to make it dual all the way.
On the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, the Moray access study was only recently received. Rail proposals for Perth-Inverness are already under advance study, and the British Rail proposals on that are hoped for soon. On the subject of helicopters, this, of course, is not a British Airways proposal, and they are still studying the matter, but obviously a helicopter development of this wide nature is a very big question indeed and not one to which we must attempt to find an instant answer.
Finally, as so much of our time has been on roads, I think an example of the difficulties which can confront the engineers who have to work out how these roads can be made was given by the noble Lord, Lord Burton, in regard to the Mallaig road. The last 17 or 20 miles is through very difficult terrain, indeed. The existing railway occupies the only really suitable place where the road could be improved. So when the Mallaig railway was in doubt obviously if it had gone we had the site for the road but since the pressure was and is for the railway to remain we have not got the site for the road. So all that can be done is that piecemeal improvements to this difficult and totally unsuitable road are to be carried out as and when they can be done. But I am quite certain that until a solution—if it is possible to find a solution for the improvement of the rest of this road—is found. the Government of the day, whether this Government or another Government, will continue to be charged with dilatory action, in relation to this road, by those ignoring the circumstances. To slightly change something which the late Sir Winston Churchill said, "It is very much easier to find solutions for our road problems in Parliamentary debates than at the engineer's desk."
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT THURSO
My Lords, I shall not keep your Lordships long in winding up this debate and sending you about your other occasions. I would start by thanking the noble Earl, Lord Perth, because it was he, on behalf of the Scottish Peers' Association (that august non-Party body in your Lordships' House) 1027 who first gave me the idea of a wide-ranging debate to be held in your Lordships' House. I should also like to thank my colleagues on these Benches for so readily having agreed that this was a good idea, and entrusting me with the task of leading your Lordships in this debate. I should like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part. We have had speakers from the far North, from the East, from the West and from the Borders. We have had discussion on road, rail, air and sea. We could hardly have ranged wider. I can hardly think of an important subject to do with transport or the economy of Scotland upon which we have not touched. I most sincerely thank every noble Lord who took part in this debate for the valuable contribution they have made to what I feel has been a most excellent debate on Scottish affairs.
In particular, I am delighted that this debate has offered a vehicle to three most distinguished Scotsmen so that they could make their maiden speeches in your Lordships' House. It has been an enormous pleasure to have been instrumental in providing a vehicle for so distinguished a Scotsman as the noble Lord, Lord Glenkinglas, who, after all, held the highest office that any Scotsman could aspire to. I know from what he said, and how he said it, that we shall be hearing more of him and from him in your Lordships' House, and we shall welcome it. Again it is a great pleasure to be able to offer a vehicle to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie. I once worked for him and managed to get him into another place. Unfortunately, when I left him and went to Aberdeenshire he did not stay there, so now it is nice to be able to welcome him in your Lordships' House. I am sure that your Lordships will agree with me that he too will add considerable weight to our debates in the future. Finally, I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Erskine of Rerrick, should have felt inspired by this topic to make his maiden speech at last. He is another extremely distinguished Scotsman whose voice, I hope, will be raised again and again in your Lordships' House.
I do not want to refer to a whole lot of speeches individually. I have thanked all your Lordships for joining in this debate and making it such an excellent one. However, may I say one word about 1028 one remark that was made. I want to clear my father's name in this debate. He was Secretary of State for Scotland for one year at the bottom of the depression crisis in the Coalition Government in 1931. That was one opportunity that he might have had for clearing up the whole of the A.9. He was also Secretary of State for Air during four years of the war from 1940 to 1945, and that was another opportunity that he might have had for clearing up the A.9. Unfortunately in 1945 he lost his seat in another place, and thereafter had no opportunity of clearing up the A.9.
Finally, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and the Government, for the generous way in which they have accepted the feeling of this debate, and the things that we have said and the questions that we have put. I feel that we have not so much asked the Government questions, but, together with the Government, we have written a chapter of recommended reading. I hope, and I am sure, that it will be read in Dover House and Saint Andrew's House. I hope that it will also be read by the officials of the new regional authorities and their members too, because we have managed to lay out, as a sort of conversazione many of the problems of Scotland, and to sketch in possible solutions for examination. If we can say that we have done this I hope that it will be useful to Scotland and that we shall feel we have done a good job for Scotland to-day.
I should like to end with one remark inspired by the kind remarks which the noble Lord, Lord Erskine, made about my ancestor, Sir John Sinclair. When he was Member for Caithness and Sutherland in another place, he was described by The Times as, "A great Scotch rat with tail and whiskers". If I can earn that title by doing one quarter of the work he did for Scotland, I shall feel very well rewarded. My Lords, with your leave, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.