February 2012

Budget change of heart ??

In advance of Wednesday’s final budget debate and vote, Finance Secretary John Swinney is “looking carefully” at “sustainable travel budgets” …

[Feb 7 update: excellent Transform Scotland pre-budget-debate briefing to all MSPs  [pdf 78k]]

The Herald today reports that, although the SNP has an overall majority, they are seeking as broad agreement as possible from other parties.   Mr Swinney is reported to be under pressure from opposition parties over several issues including the severe planned cuts to active travel.

Recently Labour, Lib Dems and Greens at Holyrood joined forces to write to Mr Swinney [letter, pdf 116k] pointing out the huge level of concern over cuts to active travel, particularly in the light of the SNP manifesto which promised to increase active travel as a proportion of total transport spending.

Last week Spokes met Transport Minister Keith Brown and although there were at that stage no hints on budget changes the Minister did appear to be taking the situation seriously and pro-actively, and to be concerned about ensuring that manifesto promises are fulfilled in the eyes of the public.

We believe that the government was also taken aback by the level of public concern, as expressed by literally hundreds of individually-written letters and emails to MSPs (Jim Eadie MSP alone has received over 100 so far) and the impressive public demonstration organised by Stop Climate Chaos ScotlandTransform Scotland, WWF Scotland and other Scottish organisations.

To achieve a full reversal of the planned cuts, or to reach the SNP manifesto promise in this budget, would require a clear shift in funding – albeit tiny in terms of total transport spending [see section B of our Minister’s briefing document – pdf 175k], whilst to have a realistic hope of meeting government cycle-use targets now seems clearly beyond the scope of this budget [briefing, section C] and needs a big re-think of spending priorities.

However, we will find out on Wednesday whether the government at least now recognises that active travel must be a significant element of transport policy, not just an added extra which can be squeezed out when the money is wanted elsewhere.

A last-minute email supporting a change-of-heart might still help!   Try the following, who are involved in the inter-party discussions…

SNP: John.Swinney.msp@scottish.parliament.uk
Labour: Claudia.Beamish.msp@scottish.parliament.uk
Lib Dem: jim.hume.msp@scottish.parliament.uk
Green: Patrick.Harvie.msp@scottish.parliament.uk
Con: Alex.Johnstone@scottish.parliament.uk




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