As other members have done, I congratulate Jim Eadie on his initiative in securing the debate and thank the capital rail action group and Transform Scotland for their on-going campaign to reinstate the Edinburgh south suburban railway, which I strongly support.
In thinking about this debate, it seemed to me that what we have here is really a Beeching cut in reverse, and some members have hinted that it was Beeching who was responsible for closing the line.
Last week, I had the opportunity to speak at the first of Transform Scotland’s hustings, and I talked about the importance of reinstating previous lines.
I flagged up the obvious example of the Borders railway, which has been a great initiative.
The timing of the debate is apt given the publication two weeks ago of the “National Transport Strategy”.
It revealed that use of public transport in Scotland has gone down by 6 per cent since 2006 while traffic on our roads has increased by 2 per cent, although I note that use of rail has increased by 29 per cent, which is positive.
David Stewart : To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on introducing an apprenticeship levy similar to that to be introduced in England, and what impact it considers such a scheme could have on encouraging companies in (a) the Highlands and Islands and (b) Scotland to invest in skills, training and apprenticeships.
Annabelle Ewing: The apprenticeship levy announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer is UK wide and will be implemented from April 2017.
The Scottish Government currently does not have the power to introduce a mandatory apprenticeship levy similar to the one being introduced by the UK Government.
The rate for the UK levy will be set at 0.5% of an employer’s pay-bill.
All employers will receive an allowance of £15,000 meaning that the levy will only be payable on pay-bill in excess of £3,000,000 per annum.
It includes all employers in private, public and third sectors and will be collected via PAYE.
Once we receive greater clarity from the UK Government on Scotland’s share of the levy, we will work with employers and stakeholders to explore how the introduction of the levy will align with Scotland’s successful apprenticeship programme
Highlands and Islands Scottish Labour MSP, David Stewart is backing calls for military personnel living in service-provided accommodation to be exempt from the new Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT).
“Our military personnel are in a unique situation when it comes to housing,” David said, “Serving in the military often means posted to different locations with the necessity of living in service-provided accommodation.
“It is not uncommon that during a prolonged posting in one location service personnel buy an ‘off base’ home.
Commenting on the increased incidents of laser pens being shone at aircraft in The North, Highlands & Islands MSP and Scottish (Labour) Transport Minister, David Stewart has come out and said that more action needs to be taken with regard this extremely dangerous practice before a serious incident occurs.
Last Sunday (31 January 2016),a laser pointer was shone into the cockpit of a search and rescue looking for a missing man in the River Ness.
The green laser is thought to have been aimed from the Merkinch area of Inverness.
The green lasers are deemed to be especially dangerous as they can cause pilot’s to suffer ’green outs’.
Congratulating Historic Environment Scotland’s Stonemason Apprentices
That the Parliament congratulates the five Historic Environment Scotland stonemason apprentices who won prizes at the British SkillBuild National Finals; notes that hundreds of apprentices and trainees competed in the competition, which was held over three days in Birmingham; recognises in particular the success of Ross Kennedy from Stromness and Calum McKimmon, Craig Derrick, Robbie McVie and Gregor Alcorn, who all made it to the finals; commends the ongoing commitment demonstrated by the apprentices, and wishes them every success in completing their qualification.
Hermitage Lottery Fund Donates Award to Friends of Hermitage Park Project
That the Parliament congratulates the Friends of Hermitage Park Association on being awarded over £2 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the regeneration of Hermitage Park; considers that this funding is a massive boost for the project, which aims to modernise and regenerate the park; acknowledges the generosity of the Hermitage Lottery Fund and thanks it for its support of the project; wishes the Friends of Heritage Park Association every success in its bid to rebuild the park, and thanks it for what it considers a great contribution to the community.