Last month, I was delighted to mark European Mobility Week in Dunblane by visiting both Dunblane Primary and High School to meet some keen cyclists and by officially opening the town's first ever pop up Active Travel Hub. There were some fantastic events around the town which were rounded off by the Active Travel and Bike Festival - huge credit must go to Scott and the team at Dunblane BID for all their efforts and to everyone who took part for taking positive steps to promote and encourage sustainable travel in and around the town. Cycling and walking have so many benefits – not only can they help people live more healthier lives, they are also more economical and better for the environment. This was a great showcase for the work being done in the town to promote greener, healthier lifestyles.
I am continuing to work with residents in the Forth Park area of Bridge of Allan who have concerns over Network Rail's proposals to close the nearby level crossing. The plans as they stand could see residents facing a significant additional journey on foot to access facilities and services in Bridge of Allan. I met with Network Rail again last week and I am confident that a workable solution can be found.
In October last year, the Scottish Government put in place a moratorium on underground coal gasification (UCG) to allow evidence on the practice to be gathered and fully considered. I am pleased to confirm that following the publication last week, of an independent report which highlights serious environmental concerns about UCG, the Scottish Government announced that it will not support the process in Scotland and that UCG will have no place in Scotland's energy mix at this time. During his statement to Parliament, Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy Paul Wheelhouse, confirmed he has written to the UK Government requesting that it issues no further UCG licences in Scotland and that existing licences are revoked. This will be welcome news for the communities across Scotland where licenses had already been granted by the UK Government.
First Minister's Questions last week was dominated by Brexit after the Conservative party conference – which exposed the reality and horror of Theresa May's plans. All political parties at Holyrood, except the Tories, rallied round the First Minister in condemning the thinly-veiled xenophobia from the UK government in a week they proposed firms would be forced to list the number of foreign workers they employ, that doctors from overseas would no longer be welcome and that EU nationals would be used as negotiating "cards" in Brexit bargaining.
The Tory conference outlined an incredibly ugly vision of Brexit Britain which is in stark contrast to the SNP's conference which this week will seek to counter the nasty, divisive rhetoric from the Tories and will send a message of inclusion and hope, emphasising that Scotland is an open, tolerant and welcoming nation, and that our priority is making this a better country for everyone who lives here, regardless of where they come from.