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Scotland's Transport

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.

December 2003

Executive Summary

  • UNISON welcomes the opportunity to respond to the consultation on Scotland's Transport- Proposals for a New Approach to Transport in Scotland. UNISON represents staff employed in the administration and delivery of public transport services across Scotland.

  • We support the Executive's moves to eradicate the present barriers that are currently in place for concessionary travel in Scotland.

  • We believe that the new arrangements are best administered by staffs who are currently undertaking these duties in Scotland's 32 Local Authorities.

  • 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 Scotland is opposed to the establishment of ‘Transport Scotland'. We believe that this centralised agency would stifle local innovation and remove another public service from local democratic control.

  • As an alternative we support joint working across local authorities through the maintenance and establishment of public service networks. The precise form of those networks will vary depending on local circumstances. They should not be imposed by the Scottish Executive.

  • In the limited areas where national co-ordination is required this should continue to be undertaken by the Transport Group in the ELL Department, working in partnership with local authorities and their public service networks.



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 services.

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.

  1. 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 government bureaucracy.

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).

  1. 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.


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For Further Information Please Contact:

Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX

Tel 0141-332 0006 Fax 0141 342 2835

e-mail matt.smith@unison.co.uk

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