September 2011

Scottish Budget 2012-13

The new Scottish SNP-majority government is now putting together its first budget.  There are some very hopeful signs and some very worrying signs.  Please help us ensure that the transport section of the budget invests properly in cycling as a form of transport, for the sake of public health, the environment, the economy … and of you and your family and friends!

** The Hopes

First on the positive side is the SNP manifesto promise  to “increase the proportion of transport spending on … active and sustainable travel.”  The SNP now has an overall majority and has no excuse for not implementing its promise.

Most important of all, the government in March (i.e. before the Scottish elections) put before Parliament its Report on Proposals and Policies [RPP] to meet Scotland’s 2010-2022 statutory climate emissions targets; this included a ‘milestone’ that at least 10% of journeys are by bicycle by 2020 [RPP 6.3].  Current policies to meet the milestone include CAPS, the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland, with its 10% 2020 target – but with no clear path to the target, no funding analysis, and no proper funding to reach the target.

Indeed Spokes has shown convincingly [submission on previous Scottish budget] that to have any hope at all of reaching the target, cycling investment must rise from its present ~£20m p.a. to £50m+ p.a. (from a total annual transport budget of around £2000m – and the £2000m excludes ‘specially-funded projects’ like the new Forth Road Bridge).

The RPP proposals include “infrastructure of a level and quality found in Sweden and Germany…” [RPP 6.32]; and travel-plan advice for all households and large work-places, though such advice, to achieve its potential, needs “measures to improve cycling infrastructure” [RPP 6.31].   The RPP proposes cycling and walking investment of £1320m over the next 11 years, averaging £120m a year (but weighted towards the early years) – which ties in well with our calculation of £50m minimum annually for cycling (assuming half of the £120m went each to walking and cycling investment).

However this section of the RPP is just proposals for how the government could meet its 2022 statutory climate change targets and its cycling milestone of 10% of trips by bike in 2020.   They are not policies which are definitely going to happen – all will depend on whether the budget (and the accompanying 3-year Spending Review) allocates the funding proposals of the RPP.   We regret that so far there has been little sign that the government is intending to act on these, its own proposals.

** The Fears

  • During the previous SNP administration, cycling investment fell badly in each of the first 2 years, only being restored to its previous level in election year 2010/11.
  • The previous SNP administration was keen to scrap the Cycling, Walking and Safer Streets fund, which is allocated on a population basis to every Scottish Council.  Loss of CWSS-type funding would be a massive disaster, probably meaning no cycling investment at all in some areas – and a huge blow to funding for Edinburgh Council’s Scotland-leading Active Travel Action Plan.  CWSS was only saved in the last parliament because Green MSPs made it a condition of supporting the first budget – but now the SNP can get its budgets through without extra votes.
  • The other main element of cycling (and walking) investment comes from the Sustainable and Active Travel budget line [for example, this includes the annual allocation to Sustrans for their work with councils and others across Scotland].  However, bizarrely this budget line also covers low carbon motor traffic.   The two should be separated out so we know what the government’s real intentions are on active travel.
  • Since being elected in May 2011 the SNP government has so far given no indication at all that it intends the step change in cycling investment which the RPP proposals would mean and which one might assume from its manifesto promise.

** SCCS Campaign

Spokes is working with Stop Climate Chaos Scotland on this campaignSCCS is urging its 60 affiliated organisations, and their members, to lobby for all the proposals in the RPP to be fully funded – obviously the RPP contains many non-transport proposals too, for example on house insulation.   SCCS has chosen active travel as one of the top two areas which it is highlighting for action.

** Please help!! – here’s what you can do

We urge all concerned members and readers to contact their MSPs.  It is fine to send a short email/letter – it’s more important to briefly state your concerns than to repeat all the points in this article!

Briefly explain your concerns over investment in cycling as a form of local transport.  Then ask your MSPs to speak or write to John Swinney MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth, urging that the RPP proposals (in particular those on cycling and walking) are fully funded in the 2012-13 budget and in the 3-year Spending Review.   Ask them to report back to you with the result.

Incidentally, Spokes is not suggesting that the total transport budget be increased – rather, the existing transport total should be rejigged so as to give a higher profile to the cycling and walking transport modes, probably through a small reduction in the proportion of the budget going to trunk roads.

Here are 2 ways of finding and writing to your MSPs…

** Further information

  •  Spokes Bulletin 110 – detailed info on current methods of funding, the hopes and the fears, why current funding levels will never achieve the government’s 2020 bike-use target, and what is needed.  See pages 1, 6, 8.
  • Preventative Spending submission [pdf 137k] – Recent Spokes response to the Scottish Parliament’s Preventative Spending Inquiry [i.e. using investment now to prevent problems such as obesity and climate change in the future].
  • Stop Climate Chaos briefing [pdf 130k] – an excellent document about this Scottish Budget campaign.

** How cycling investment could be used

If the government does implement the RPP proposals and perhaps £50m-£60m annual cycling investment is allocated, how should it be used?   On the basis of our annual financial survey and monitoring different funding methods over the years, Spokes suggests the following, at least for the first 2 or 3 years whilst experience in higher cycling investment accumulates.  The first 2 bullet points are slight increases to existing funding streams, whilst the 3rd bullet point would be an entirely new fund.

  • A £10m a year CWSS fund [with some rule revisions] to ensure basic active travel work in every Scottish council.
  • £10m (or more) a year allocated by the Sustainable Transport Team to Sustrans, Cycling Scotland, Bike Station, etc for their work with councils and others.
  • A new £30m a year fund open to bids over a certain level by any relevant body, such as Transport Partnerships, ScotRail, BWB, business organisations and, primarily, local authorities.  This would enable enthusiastic councils and others with ideas, plans and expertise, to progress rapidly with substantial projects to raise cycle use – projects which currently have no realistic funding source.





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