John’s Speech on A9 Speed Cameras

 

On March 17th John took part in a Member’s Debate on the A9 Speed Cameras.

John Finnie:

I, too, commend Mike MacKenzie for bringing this important issue to the chamber. I have enjoyed the speeches thus far.

One of the purposes of Government is to provide a safe transport system for its citizens, so I certainly commend the efforts of the Scottish Government with regard to the A9. Those efforts are undertaken with other agencies including local authorities, Transport Scotland and others. Why does it do that? It is a good thing to do, but it is also a very cost-effective thing to do.

A lot of people have talked about supporting dualling. I add my support to dualling—but dualling of the rail line, which would be far more cost-effective than the obscene sum of money that has been spent on the A9.

I looked for references on the Scottish Government’s website. There is an excellent document on there, which I commend, called “Scotland’s Road Safety Framework to 2020”. I will not quote the statistics in it—many members have quoted statistics, Dave Stewart among then. I commend Mr Stewart’s work on young drivers and the challenge there, to which members have referred.

We must remember that the statistics are about real people who have families and neighbours and who live in communities. In those communities there is a coalition of voices in support of efforts to stop the carnage that was taking place on the A9. As members have said, the road safety cameras are but one mechanism that is being used for that.

The framework that I mentioned has some wonderful phrases in it and some wonderful chapters—for example, “Encouraging a Drive for Life culture”, which is what we need to encourage, and “Reducing the tolerance of Risk on roads”. We know that risk taking is a factor and that, of course, the largest factor is irresponsible driver behaviour.

Mike MacKenzie talked about slowing down and adding to quality of life, which is an important factor, and is good for the planet, too. There are also rights: we must uphold the right of all road users to expect to travel safely, which was not the position in the past.

I have been involved in road building in the past—although not the A9—but I think that I am alone in having dealt with incidents on that road as a police officer. Those incidents ranged from minor to serious incidents. I recall being sent as a dog handler to see whether there had been a pillion passenger on a motorcycle, and being told to ignore the leg that was lying in the road further along. That is the sort of thing that not just police officers but other emergency services workers have to deal with. I am in support of anything that can be done to reduce the carnage.

Indeed, shortly after I was elected, I wrote to the Scottish Government and was told that introducing average-speed cameras was not feasible. If it was not feasible at that time, it is certainly feasible now and I welcome the fact that they have been introduced, because results from elsewhere, for example on the A77, are compelling, and the anecdotal experience that we have heard is positive. It is not about road design; it is about irresponsible driver behaviour and the most common facet of that is speed.

There has been brief mention of irresponsible elected representative behaviour, which I cannot let pass without saying that my MP, Danny Alexander, certainly has not represented me in the way that he has talked about the issue. A lot has changed since I was in the police service.

Something else I found on the Government website this afternoon is called Klang: The Road Home. I do not know whether the minister will tell us about Klang, which I knew nothing about. It was launched on 16 February and is a smartphone app to encourage road safety, to be used by young people.

Mary Scanlon:

It is of no use to you, then.

John Finnie:

I am told that Klang is of no use to me.

Of course, what is for me is another app that the Scottish Government has put in place—the road safety cameras. It is a hands-free app: we just need to stick to the law, as Stewart Stevenson said. We are not there yet—there is still irresponsible driver behaviour, but road safety cameras contribute to making things better and I, for one, welcome them. I thank Mike MacKenzie for bringing the debate to the chamber.

 

The Motion Debated was:

“That the Parliament welcomes the recently published performance data regarding the average speed cameras on the A9, which suggests that, since the cameras were introduced, the number of drivers speeding has reduced from around one in three to one in 20 and that examples of excessive speeding are down by 97%; understands that there is no evidence of drivers taking diversions or using so-called rat runs to avoid the cameras; believes that their introduction has resulted in an increase in journey time reliability to and from Inverness, and considers that both the cameras and the HGV speed limit pilot on the A9, which have been put in place ahead of the dualling of the road, have been a success and have led to more responsible and safer motoring.”