January 2011
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Manifestos and Budget – latest

Now is your final chance to influence party manifestos for the Holyrood elections on 5 May, and the Scottish budget for 2011-12, both of which will have a major impact on what happens to cycling conditions and promotion in the next few years …

At present it looks like the Scottish Budget will result in a small decline in cycling investment – but the really drastic cut that had seemed likely [total abolition of the CWSS fund] has been averted, thanks to many individuals and organisations who contacted MSPs – if you were one of them, thank you!!

It is still entirely possible to get a significant budget improvement – but only if one of the opposition parties (Greens, Labour, LibDem or Tory) now makes this a condition of supporting the Budget in the last-minute negotiations with the SNP government over the next week or two.   Please email any of your MSPs in those parties to ask for this.   Find their address at www.writetothem.com.

We don’t yet know what will be in party manifestos for the May 5th elections.  Our number one priority is a substantial rise in the proportion of the transport budget going to investment in cycling – currently around 1%.  Encouragingly, the ‘pre-manifesto’ of one major party does promise this, though without any figures.   Second priority is to retain the CAPS target of 10% of trips to be by bike by 2020 – although the target of course makes no sense unless the funding is also agreed.   Please email your MSPs about this.   Find their address at www.writetothem.com.

MEANWHILE IN WALES, A BIG FUNDING TRANSFER FROM TRUNK ROADS TO ACTIVE TRAVEL.   SO – IT CAN BE DONE!!!

From the latest Sustrans e-newsletter The Network, January 2011…

The Welsh Government has invested the money saved from cancelling the M4 extension in a Wales-wide travel behaviour programme. Sustrans has been commissioned to deliver what will be the biggest individualised travel marketing programme in the UK.”

SUPERMARKET TAX

We can at least compliment the Scottish Government on including in the budget a levy on the largest supermarkets – almost entirely the out-of-town drive-to supermarkets.   As well as raising £30m, the government sees this as boosting shops in town centres – and for that reason it has been backed by the Federation of Small Businesses.   Regrettably, all opposition parties except the Greens have opposed the levy.   This is almost impossible to understand except as a knee-jerk reaction to anything the government proposes, and throws a really disappointing light on the environmental and sustainable transport understanding of Labour, LibDems and Conservatives.   A very small number of big in-town stores (e.g. Jenners) will be affected – but this could be dealt with by amending the proposed levy rather than by out-and-out opposition.

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The remainder of this article gives more background on cycling investment in the Scottish budget plans as they currently stand, and cycle funding more generally.  For further background, and what Spokes has been doing, see also our 30.12.10 news item.

WHY WILL CYCLING INVESTMENT FALL IN 2011-12?

The impact of the budget, in its present form, on the 3 biggest sources of cycle funding is…

  • The Sustainable and Active Travel budget line [which funds Sustrans amongst others] is rising by £4m – but £3m of the rise goes to low-carbon motor traffic
  • The CWSS fund [population-based funding to every council for cycling, walking and safer streets] is retained, but cut from £9.1m to £7.5m
  • General capital funding for councils is badly cut – and councils are likely to concentrate the remaining funds on priorities like schools.

WHAT SHOULD REALLY HAPPEN?

The above ups and downs are interesting but they are not really the main point, which is that total cycling investment (and active travel generally) is far too low as a % of the total transport budget (cycling is around 1%).   The Spokes budget submission uses evidence from Cycling England to suggest that for any hope of reaching the SG target of 10% of trips by bike in 2020, cycling investment alone should be a minimum of £50m p.a., i.e. 2.5% of the transport budget.

The government’s own Report on Policies and Proposals suggests that, in order to reach its carbon emissions targets, total active travel investment should average out at around £100m p.a. over the next 12 years (that is still just 5% of the transport budget) – which ties in well with our £50m minimum estimate for cycling alone .  However, this is just a government ‘option’ not a definite plan, and there is no sign they are adopting it.

GOVERNMENT RESPONSE

A good number of individuals have already written to MSPs, and some have forwarded us a response from SNP MSP Ian McKee, which gives the government line – a careful mixture of fact, omission and spin!   His email is below, with our comments below that…

Letter to constituents from Ian McKee MSP

Thank you for your email but let me reassure you regarding the Cycling Walking Safer Streets (CWSS) programme – the funding has been ring-fenced and retained for 2011-12 and it’s part of the Local Government Settlement, not the budget, announced 9th December .

In the summer the Minister for Transport announced an extra £3.9 million plan to increase cycling numbers and have 10 per cent of all journeys by bike by 2020. This is on top of the £17.3 million yearly budget (2010-11). The funding will go towards cycle routes and cycling training. This is excellent news that has been welcomed by cycling and active transport organisations across the board. I would also like to stress that the 2010-11 funding is a 50% increase on the previous year’s cycling budget.

You can see the press release here:  http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2010/06/25110936

The SNP Government has shown more dedication on active travel and green issues than any previous administration. This is evidenced by our world leading Climate Change Bill and record investment in cycling. You may also be aware of the Climate Challenge Fund that we introduced. The fund is helping many companies across Edinburgh and Scotland encourage their employees to cycle or take the bus to work by making adaptations such as introducing cycle racks. The Bike Station in Newington is an excellent successful example of this.

Spokes comments on Ian McKee’s email

It is true that cycling investment has risen in 10/11, thanks largely to a one-off £3.9m injection at the time of the Cycling Action Plan (CAPS) launch.  However, this follows cuts every year since the SNP came to power, and just about brings them back to the level of cycling investment in the final 2 years of the previous Lab/Lib Scottish government.  So if it is now ‘record levels’, it is the same record level as under the previous government!

To take the most extreme example, the biggest investment chunk is the government grant to Sustrans (who then work with councils across Scotland to implement local projects).   When the SNP came to power, Sustrans was receiving £7.8m a year.  That was cut in 08/09 to approx £5m and then in 09/10 to approx £4m.   This year it has been ‘doubled’ to £7.7m if you compare it to last year, but not exactly doubled if you compare it to what the SNP government inherited!!!

The second biggest chunk is the government grant to councils through the CWSS fund (of which generally something like 40% goes to cycling projects).   Thanks maybe to much lobbying the fund now looks almost certain to be retained for 11/12 as Ian McKee says – although he does not mention that its total is being cut (from around £9m to around £7.5m.

Our provisional estimate for 11/12 (as explained above) is that, assuming no new sums in the forthcoming Scottish Budget, taking all into account we will see a decline from the current ‘record level,’ though it is too early to put firm figures on it.

There is also a factual error in Ian McKee’s letter, in that the £3.9m in 10/11 is part of the £17.3m total, not additional to it.   This is quite clear in the table on p32 (section 6.1) of the CAPS document.

The main problem however – as outlined above – is not whether total cycling investment is up or down a bit, but that the proportion of the transport budget going to cycling investment is and has always been far too low, at around 1%.   This question Mr McKee completely fails to address.

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