Guest Editorial: All drivers facing rise in insurance

David Stewart MSP
David Stewart MSP

I am delighted to write once again as guest columnist on insideMoray for November.

This month I highlight my concern at plans by the SNP Government to ‘dumb down’ serious road traffic related offences under proposed changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act in Scotland.

As a direct result of these proposals, almost every driver will see a rise in their insurance premiums, as Insurance companies will not readily be available to identify offenders and those who are a risk, because of previous bad driving habits.

The Scottish Government proposals also risk road safety and all partner’s efforts to make our roads safer, by removing a strong deterrent to drive responsibly.

Under the proposals, those who receive fines, including for endorsable driving offences such as speeding or driving without insurance, would see them become ‘spent’ after just 12 months, rather than three or five years currently.

The changes could also affect drink-drivers, who could also see their convictions become spent, meaning they would not have to be declared after just a year depending on their sentence.

Again we see the Scottish Government coming up with a scheme that is ill thought out. Surely they need to wait and consult with the Police, the Insurance Industry the motoring associations and road safety organisations to establish their views.

Will the general motoring public be happy to have to pay stiffer premiums for their insurance as a direct result of this watering down of legislation?

Gary Rae, campaigns director for road safety charity Brake, said the proposals could essentially “air brush out” driving convictions after 12 months. He added: “We’re seriously concerned that this could remove any obligation for some drivers to drive safely, as well as potentially increasing insurance premiums for all drivers.”

I have written to the Scottish Transport Minister on this matter laying out my serious concerns.

Just yesterday, I have received a response from the cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson. In his response he states that in regards to a person’s criminal activity, there has to be a balance between protecting the public and enabling people with a criminal record to move away from their previous criminal activity.

He advised that the proposals were out for consultation and the consultation period closed on 12 August 2015. In his response he went on to say that the consultees responses would now be analysed before a final decision was taken.

Return of BA Flights to London

British Airways return to Inverness
British Airways return to Inverness

Last week I welcomed the British Airways announcement that they will start a new daily flight connecting Inverness with Heathrow Airport from spring next year.

It is 18 years since BA terminated flights from Inverness to London and in the meantime Easy Jet provided the vital link with London, Gatwick. However, the loss of the flight from London to Heathrow saw a reduction of thousands and thousands of passengers passing through Inverness.

Better connectivity is what is badly needed across the Highlands & Islands and Moray and I have been pushing for a number of years for improved flights to and from the Highland capital. In particular, we needed better connectivity with London.

There is no doubt that if we can provide and sustain more frequent flights to London we can benefit across the Highlands, Islands and Moray from an increase in the valuable tourism industry, business and business connections will be improved and there will be much improved trade routes not to mention the added positive effect for those from this location wishing to pursue leisure experiences.”.

I welcome BA back to Inverness as this decision is a positive move for the local economy, local people and business and as important the move will create more jobs.

Graduated Driving

Last Month I travelled to London to meet Andrew Jones MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport and Lilian Greenwood MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, to discuss his proposed graduated licence scheme (GDL).

For the last five and a half years, I have pursued many road safety campaigns across the Highlands, Islands and Moray. The principal campaign being the ‘Sensible Driving – Always Arriving’ campaign, which proposes the introduction of a form of graduated licence.

12.5% of all road collisions in Scotland involve a young person aged between 17 and 19 years. If a form of graduated licence was introduced, we could save 45 lives and reduce casualties by 299 each year.

In the Highlands and Grampian areas 15.7% of all collisions involve a driver falling into the age bracket highlighted. If there was a graduated licence scheme introduced, then we could reduce the casualties in this area by 64 and prevent up to 13 fatalities.

I want our young people to be mobile, but I want them to be mobile safely and that is why I am engaging with young people across the Highlands & Islands and beyond. My proposals are really not going to be restrictive as some imagine.

I am asking now for all new drivers to display a ‘P’ plate for the first six months after they pass their test. I am looking for as near zero an alcohol level as possible and a restriction on the number of other young persons that can be carried.

I am hoping that the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport will give me a fair hearing and our meeting will be positive.


Fireworks restrictions (pic: David Robertson)
Fireworks restrictions (pic: David Robertson)

It’s that time of year again and whilst many get enjoyment out of watching fireworks displays, we should all be mindful of the impact fireworks have on our domestic pets.

The bottom line is that fireworks cause real stress to most pets and that is why I would like us to reach a position that we really only attended organised firework and bonfire events. Also I feel this would reduce unfortunate accidents in relation to same at this time of the year.

Did you know that you can be fined up to £5,000 and/or imprisoned for up to six months for selling or using fireworks illegally? You could also get an on-the-spot fine of £90.

You can only buy fireworks (including sparklers) from registered sellers for private use on these dates:

  • 15 October to 10 November (so ending today)
  • 26 to 31 December
  • 3 days before Diwali and Chinese New Year

At other times you can only buy fireworks from licensed shops. Perhaps now as we move on from fireworks night we reflect and also thing of the stress and harm that all these fireworks being set off in our communities over the last two weeks may have caused to all the family pets and maybe you will like me hope that more and more people attend organised events in the future.

Invitations remain open to all MPs and MSPs serving Moray to submit guest editorials.