February 2012

Spokes meets Transport Minister

Spokes and the Bike Station met Transport Minister Keith Brown MSP on February 1st to discuss cycling investment in Scotland…

The meeting took place thanks to local Edinburgh MSPs Jim Eadie and Marco Biagi, and thanks to more than 100 members of the public – including many of our members and readers – possibly you! – as explained below.

We had submitted in advance to the Minister a briefing document [pdf 175k].   This shows very clearly that the tiny proportion of the transport budget now going to active travel, already on the slide, is to be cut drastically in 12/13 [see section B of the briefing].  This at the same time as trunk road spending gets a huge rise (thanks mainly to the next Forth Road Bridge).

As feared and expected, the Minister confirmed that no changes had been made since the draft budget was published.

Nonetheless, and given that depressing background, the meeting was surprisingly constructive, with the Minister himself suggesting various actions and a follow-up meeting in May.

There was disagreement on the actual level of government active travel investment, but the Minister asked Spokes to meet government officials to try and come up with an agreed position on the facts, which would form the background to the May meeting.   We are confident of the case in our briefing document – but certainly the budget is far from transparent in terms of active travel, making it very difficult for the ordinary MSP to understand the detail of what is happening.

Our briefing [section E] therefore supports the Parliamentary All-Party Infrastructure & Capital Investment Committee, who made this very point and called for “a separate budget line for active travel” – which would eliminate this time-wasting and frustrating debate  [see Budget report pdf, Annex I, the ICI report, para 73].  However, despite the confusion, the Committee had obtained “the Cabinet Secretary’s [John Swinney MSP] own confirmation” that active travel funding “has been reduced in the draft budget.”

The meeting which the Minister promised for May is to cover…

  • Agreement, if possible, on the facts of active travel funding [as above]
  • The extent to which this ties up with the SNP manifesto promise
  • Whether current investment and policies are on track to meeting the government’s 2020 target for 10% of trips to be by bike [the CAPS annual progress report should be out by then]
  • Report-back on possible additional funding for 12/13 if there is slippage in major capital projects [the Minister will ask officials to assess this]; or from Barnet Consquentials [though subsequently we learn that the latest BCs have just been allocated, with none to active travel].

These are potentially very significant points, which we greatly welcome, hopefully bringing greater clarity about what is happening in reality – in terms of funding, of keeping promises and of achieving targets.  With also the possibility of some additional funding part-way through the year.

However, we emphasise that present funding levels, let alone after the planned 12/13 cuts, are nowhere near adequate to meet government targets or to bring the health, emissions and transport benefits which other countries are achieving.   See section C of our briefing.

Today’s constructive meeting does not mean that the decision makers at the very top – such as  Finance Secretary John Swinney MSP – have suddenly recognised the value of cycling as a transport mode, or that cycling investment is now recovering.   Rather it means that the pressure bubbling up from below is getting more powerful, and reaching further into the decision-making process.  Please keep it up!!


  • Jim Eadie MSP and Marco Biagi MSP, local Edinburgh SNP MSPs, who arranged and attended the meeting, which resulted initially from a Parliamentary Question to Keith Brown by Jim Eadie.   Whilst we are disturbed at the lack of understanding of cycling as a serious transport mode amongst top SNP decision-makers such as Finance Secretary John Swinney, we are impressed with the efforts of JE and MB, who hopefully represent a new younger generation.
  • Spokes members and many others who have lobbied their MSPs have made all the difference – thank you if you are one of them.  Jim Eadie told the Minister he had received over 100 individual letters/emails about this, whilst Marco Biagi told the Minister that loyal SNP local members had been asking him what on earth is going on.  Without this pressure, Jim Eadie’s PQ would not have been asked, and these meetings would not be happening.   Please keep up the lobbyingit is tragic that no changes have been made to the budget and that none of the latest Barnet Consequentials have been allocated to active travel.
  • Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, Transform Scotland and other national organisations, who raised the campaign to a new level – in particular organising the big demonstration outside Alex Salmond and John Swinney’s offices at St Andrews House.
  • Sustrans whose budget submission [pdf 431k] impressed the Minister at our meeting, when we showed him its lengthy appendix listing local contractors in every part of Scotland who have benefitted from government cycling investment via Sustrans.  We highlighted firms in and near his constituency – and this could be done for most if not all MSPs in Scotland!



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