Railhead back on track

A RAILHEAD at Grange-stone took a step closer to reality when the Scottish Government approved its budget last week.

Saving the Freight Facilities Grant has taken 33 million lorry miles off the road since it was first introduced in 1997.

The news has been welcomed by social enterprise group Ailsa Horizons, which will now step up its efforts to secure a share of funding for the project.

Spokesman Stuart Lindsay said: “Our Grangestone inter-modal railhead project will need a Freight Facilities Grant of around £1.8million.

“That will get at least 4,000 lorryloads off our local roads. We know that there are up to six other projects in the pipeline for funding this year and that most of those will be looking for at least as much funding as us. So, securing a grant is likely to be a highly competitive process. We accept that the cutbacks that are having to be made in Scotland make an increasing level of competition for funding inevitable.

“But I hope that, as the year goes on, the Government will be able to find additional funding for this important priority. This would be in line with their own ‘Policies and Proposals’ document, which advocates allocating £180 million to modal shift projects in the period 2011 to 2022.

“Meanwhile, Ailsa Horizons will be working as hard as possible to make the Grangestone application as strong as it can be.”

He praised MSPs for getting the FFG back on track: “I’d like to thank MSPs John Scott, who spoke in favour of FFG during the Holyrood debate on January 13 and Adam Ingram, who gave important support ‘behind the scenes’. In particular, I’d like to thank our local MSP, Cathy Jamieson, who really picked up on how vital FFG is to our proposal to get thousands of lorries journeys off our roads.

“Without her motion to debate the issue in Parliament and the work that she did to influence other MSPs it is quite possible that the £2million would not have been made available.”

The Rail Freight Group also welcomed the decision. The group, which represents users and suppliers of rail freight services throughout Britain, said it would be “good for the environment and good for Scotland’s economy”.

RFG Scottish representative David Spaven said: “This is a great decision and is a tribute to the cross-party support for retaining an unsung but very successful scheme. “

Although he singled out Ms Jamieson “for leading the helpful debate on FFG in Parliament on January 13”, Mr Ingram rounded on her for voting against Scotland’s budget for next year, which will provide an extra £2 million in funding for the Freight Facilities Grant scheme.

The SNP minister said: “This is great news for Ailsa Horizons and others who had been dismayed at the suspension of the scheme as a consequence of Westminster cuts to the Scottish Government’s capital budget. However, I am quite astonished by Cathy Jamieson voting against the budget considering her concerns over the future of the Freight Facilities Grant which she voiced in her members debate last month. This is a week where the political hypocrisy of the Labour party has been writ large. Having called upon the SNP government to restore freight facilities grants, to increase support to college students and to tackle youth unemployment by increasing apprenticeships Labour MSPs, including Cathy Jamieson, chose to vote against the SNP budget which delivered on these very issues.

“This is political opposition borne out of spite for the SNP with a complete disregard for the Scottish national interest.

“I trust come the May elections Labour will be sent home to think again by Scotlands voters.”