Proposals for a New Approach to Transport in Scotland.
UNISON Scotland's response to the Scottish
Executive's Consultation on a new agency for Transport in Scotland.
UNISON fully supports the function of Scotland's
four Regional Transport Partnership groups, HITRANS, NESTRANS,
SESTRAN and WESTRANS in their way of working with Scotland's
local Authorities and the excellent service supplied by the
Strathclyde Passenger Transport Authority.
UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union representing
over 145,000 members working in the public sector. We are the
largest trade union in local government, with over 98,000 members
working in this sector in Scotland. UNISON welcomes the opportunity
to comment on this consultation, particularly as UNISON has members
engaged in the administration and delivery of transport services
who will be directly affected by the Scottish Executive's proposals
for a new transport agency in Scotland.
UNISON Scotland is opposed to the creation of Transport
Scotland and this response examines the consultation paper's proposals
for the creation of such an agency to look at the needs of Transport
across Scotland in the twenty first century.
Brief Overview of Proposals
The consultation document sets out proposals, which
could change the way Scotland's transport system is managed and
improved. In recognition of the need for very large public transport
infrastructure projects, such as airport rail links, and the need
for greater integration between modes, it is suggested that a
new approach is needed.
The document praises and recognises the very good
work done by Local Authorities, Regional Transport Partnerships
and the SPTA. However, it suggests that these bodies are going
to be very hard pressed to deliver what Scotland now needs. A
new National Transport Agency, "Transport Scotland",
is proposed. This agency is intended to provide a national centre
of excellence designed to deliver major projects quickly and to
be charged with the delivery of effective integrated transport
The consultation document suggests that in addition
to the new Transport Agency, the current voluntary Regional Partnerships
should be given greater powers and associated funding, probably
taking the form of Joint Boards. Local Authorities should also
continue to deliver sustainable alternatives to short trips, such
as walking and cycling, and should have a strong partner to work
with, in the new Agency. It is also suggested that more could
be done locally to improve services if Councils could increasingly
share expertise and resources.
Consideration is given to the possibility of Regional
Transport Joint Boards exercising all transport powers across
their respective areas, but ensuring local accountability is maintained
through Councils' membership of the joint board. However, it is
acknowledged that this might not be appropriate in certain areas
of Scotland, and therefore consideration would have to be given
to the precise balance of powers between Councils and their Regional
Transport Joint Boards, in each region.
Response by UNISON Scotland
UNISON Scotland is opposed to the proposal set out
in this document for the creation of "Transport Scotland".
The proposals for this body fail to examine the
area of management, flexibility and accountability for the day
to day running of Transport Scotland. They also fail to make the
case for removing a service from local democratic control and
handing it over to a centralised agency.
Management of Transport Scotland
The consultation document lacks detail on how this
body will deal with the day to day administration of the concessionary
fares schemes that are currently being administrated by Scotland's
local authorities. Whilst UNISON Scotland welcomes the Scottish
Executive's aim to end the boundaries of concessionary travel,
we have grave concern that the staff knowledge of the schemes
will be lost if Transport Scotland takes this service away from
the remit of Scotland's Local Authorities.
Concessionary fare schemes are a lifeline for those
who qualify to use these schemes. Local administration is preferable
to a centralised agency, far removed from service users.
2. Flexibility of Transport Scotland
The consultation paper also fails to address the
flexibility of the administration of such a new agency. An area
of concern for UNISON Scotland is the management of this body.
The risk is that this body will simply create another tier of
Will doubt if "Transport Scotland" will
have the flexibility to deal with the demands of Scotland's Transport
users. We suspect that much of the motivation behind Transport
Scotland is to facilitate the expanded role of the private sector
through the failed concept of Public Private Partnerships (PPP).
Accountability of Transport Scotland
An aspect that concerns UNISON Scotland is the level
of accountability that Transport Scotland will have. The consultation
also fails to clarify what relationship Transport Scotland and
the Minister for Transport will have with the four regional transport
partnerships, HITRANS, NESTRANS, SESTRAN and WESTRANS. It also
fails to mention what the future holds for SPTA. These organisations
currently have a huge wealth of knowledge, experience and understanding
of the delivery of Scotland's modern transport needs.
The creation of a centralised agency, divorced from
local democratic accountability will result in the diminution
of the level of current expertise in the four regional transport
partnerships and SPTA. Local Authorities have been a driving force
for creating ambitious but easily managed local initiatives. Innovation
that will be diminished through the dead hand of a national agency.
As an alternative to creation of a centralised agency,
UNISON Scotland supports the establishment of public service networks
between local authorities. Many of the current voluntary arrangements
and SPTE are good examples of such networks. The strength of such
arrangements is that they enable a strategic approach to the needs
of a particular region without losing local democratic control.
Further networking of this type would enable a strategic approach
to transport across Scotland without the disruption of further
organisational change and the loss of democratic accountability.
Most transport needs are local or regional. These do not require
another level of government to manage them.
We accept that many of the current arrangements
could be strengthened. This may include more formal arrangements
as set out in the paper. However, the precise form of such structures
should be decided locally in response to local circumstances.
The ‘one size fits all' approach suggested in the consultation
paper is neither necessary nor desirable.
The key element of this consultation paper is the
establishment of a new agency Transport Scotland. UNISON Scotland
believes that the paper fails to make a convincing case for the
establishment of such an agency or explains how it will operate
in sufficient detail. We believe that very few transport initiatives
require to be managed on a Scotland wide basis and any co-ordination
can be undertaken by the Transport Group. Most services are best
managed and delivered either locally by individual councils or
regionally by local authorities voluntarily coming together in
appropriate public service networks.