Freight Facilities Grants (Highlands)
The following has been taken from the Scottish Parliament web site and is the exchange of question and answers between Maureen Macmillan (Highlands and Islands) (Lab) (MM) and the Minister for Transport and Telecommunications (Tavish Scott) (TS)
MM: To ask the Scottish Executive how successful freight facilities grants are in the Highlands, in the light of the decision by Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc not to continue Safeway Ltd.'s practice of supplying stores throughout the Highlands by rail.
TS: Freight facilities grants can be successful in the Highlands. As a result of the Safeway FFG contract, almost 5 million lorry miles were removed from Scotland's roads between 1999 and 2005. I am disappointed that, following its takeover of Safeway, Wm Morrison has decided to stop supplying its Highlands stores by rail.
MM: The members' business debate yesterday dealt with congestion on the A9. What further incentives can be given to businesses such as Morrison's and Tesco to encourage them to transfer their loads from road to rail? I also bring to the minister's attention the fact that Morrison's withdrawal from the FFG contract could mean the loss of railway jobs in Inverness, particularly for the signalmen on the night shift.
TS: Those are fair points. In the context of the debate on the A9, it is important that we make further progress on moving freight from road to rail, not just with the supermarket companies that Maureen Macmillan highlighted but with other business users who can see both the environmental and cost benefits of a modal shift in freight transport. The Executive is currently monitoring the situation in the Highlands and Islands and we are working with businesses there where we can. We are also considering a number of innovative ideas to achieve objectives that meet environmental and cost criteria.