April 2011

Cycling in the Holyrood Manifestos

What is promised for cycling in party manifestos for the May 5th Holyrood elections??   Read on…

Manifestos for the May 5th Scottish Parliament elections are all better on cycling than at the 2007 election [Spokesworker 22.4.07 – pdf 219k] even though most still leave a huge amount to be desired.   Spokes, individual members, and other organisations, have done much lobbying during the last 4 years, including in the run-up to party manifesto preparations.  It has made a real difference – thank you if you have contacted MSPs, whether this year or earlier!

You will of course vote on a range of issues, not just cycling, and Spokes is not advising you how to vote.  However, there is a clear gradation in how seriously the manifestos take cycling investment and objectives, as can be seen from the extracts below.  Depending on which combination of parties is in power we are likely to see significant differences in cycling investment levels.

From best to worst on cycling, the manifestos rank like this…
BEST – Green : Labour : LibDem : SNP : Conservative – WORST

Spokes had 2 main manifesto ‘asks’ [see 3.1.11 Spokes letter to parties].

  • A substantial rise in the proportion of the transport budget going to cycling investment.  This is the top issue, with cycling investment currently only some 1% of total transport spending.  Specific promises like a Boris Bikes hire scheme sound good and are fine, but financially are small beer; whereas raising cycling investment from 1% of the transport budget to 10%, 5%, or even doubling it to 2%, would bring huge possibilities (including many specifics, such as Boris bikes).
  • To retain the Scottish government CAPS target for 10% of all trips to be by bike in 2020.  At present investment levels this is a pipe-dream, almost a hoax [see p1 of Spokes 109] but retaining the target keeps up the pressure for realistic funding.

We are delighted that four of the five main parties promise a higher proportion of transport investment going to cycling. Sadly only one party promises a specific percentage [Greens, 10%] but these promises nonetheless give valuable scope for lobbying the new government, whatever its make-up.  Most disappointing is that the 4 ‘big’ parties remain wedded to continued expansion of trunk-road capacity [notably the £1600m new Forth Road Bridge and the £350m Aberdeen Western Peripheral Road] – with huge financial implications, let alone the considerations of environment, energy security, public health and sustainable local communities. Such spending also makes it harder to raise cycling investment by the significant levels needed.

Manifesto wordings now follow (in italics) with Spokes comments (non-italic).     We show the entire wording on cycling from each manifesto, also with web links to each party’s home page…

CONSERVATIVE  www.scottishconservatives.com

Cycling is not mentioned in the transport section [p6,7]!!  Astonishingly, the only mention of cycling is under Sport [p27],
We will promote sponsored bike schemes for our towns and cities to encourage greater participation in cycling.”

GREEN  www.scottishgreens.org.uk

[p12] “With better use of the planning system the distance people need to travel to work and to access services can be reduced. A ‘Living Streets’ approach will build neighbourhoods that are safer, healthier and happier …  The capital investment needed for walking and cycling is minimal, but the economic benefit is huge, especially given the improvement to public health. We’ll ensure that by the end of the next Parliament active travel will receive at least 10% of the transport budget; walking and cycling must be a particular priority for school transport … Workplaces have a role to play in supporting these changes, with showers and space for bike parking, and workplace parking charges to help pay for cut-price public transport deals and bike-to-work schemes. In cities, public bike-hire schemes as well as car clubs have a big role to play in cutting cars on the roads.
The investment promise is excellent and the clearest of any party.

LABOUR  www.scottishlabour.org.uk

[p21 and p75] “Scottish Labour is determined to see walking and cycling become a more convenient, attractive and realistic choice for many short journeys and will retain the target of ensuring that 10 per cent of trips be made by bike by 2020. To achieve this, we will ensure that active travel receives a higher proportion of the overall transport budget and promote the Cycle Friendly Employer Award Scheme, which recognises workplaces that put in place measures to create a culture of cycling. Where possible, Scottish Labour will work with partners to encourage bicycle banks – like those developed in London – and tube-style bike maps, to promote the growth of cycling in our towns and cities.
This is the strongest commitment of the 4 big parties, and it incorporates the 2 main Spokes ‘asks’ – although a commitment to a % of the transport budget would have been even better.

LIBDEM www.scotlibdems.org.uk

[p45] “Increase the proportion of the transport budget spent on sustainable and active travel measures, to help double the number of short journeys by foot and cycle. We will deliver the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland [CAPS] and ensure that active travel infrastructure is at the heart of all housing and commercial developments.
Almost commits to the 2 Spokes ‘asks’ but doesn’t explicitly accept the 2020 target for 10% of trips by bike. The manifesto target to double foot/bike trips in this Parliament – i.e. by year 2016 – makes the 2020 target look tricky to achieve.

SNP  www2.snp.org

No mention of cycling in the transport section [p13].  However…
[p6] “Scottish Futures Fund” … includes £50 million over 5 years, to be “invested in new projects across the country designed to deliver improved connectivity and innovation in transport. This … will focus on modal shift to help more Scots move to low-carbon and active travel options.
[p35]  We “will continue to increase the proportion of transport spending that goes on low-carbon, active and sustainable travel. [Spokes note – this is misleading.   The proportion of transport spending going to low-carbon motor vehicles has indeed risen, but the proportion going to cycling has not risen – see‘Government Reply’ article in Spokes 109] .
The SNP manifesto promises are rather unclear but overall look as if they would mean a very small proportionate rise in cycling investment.  It is not clear if the £50m over 5 years (£10m a year) is the whole proposed increase, but since cycling is not mentioned in the transport section it may well be.   Note too that the £50m covers low-carbon motor vehicles as well as cycling (and walking) so we are probably looking at a £2m-£3m rise in annual cycling investment, compared to a current total approaching £20m, in which case the rise in cycling’s % of total transport would be small.


If you’d like to compare manifestos from a wider environmental perspective than just cycling, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland has published a really excellent manifesto-comparison page.  It includes a short comparison table [pdf 142k], a long comparison table [pdf 183k] (the latter contains exact-wording manifesto extracts), direct links to the full party manifestos, and other useful links.


  • Use the information above to question your local candidates. For example, remind them of their manifesto promises above and ask to what level they will raise cycling investment – especially when the 4 biggest parties are also promising new and expanded trunk roads which will require very large sums.
  • Take part in the Stop Climate Chaos election e-action which includes an ‘ask’ for 10% of the transport budget for active travel.  Go to www.stopclimatechaos.org/scottish-election-action. The SCCS website automatically lists all the candidates for your postcode area, so is very easy to use.  You can edit the draft email there if you wish to send a more cycling-specific message.


  • Continued lobbying is vital after the election: immediately and later.  Remind victorious parties of their promises – pester them!
  • Right after the election there may be inter-party negotiations to form a government – a short immediate email/letter to MSPs of likely governing parties could be really useful at that stage.



See our Spokesworker page.   The 19 April issue has a slightly shorter version of the above article as its main feature, plus items on…

  • Princes Street future
  • The death of Cycling England
  • Second Forth Road Bridge – latest
  • and more…

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