August 2012

Scottish Budget 2013/14

[‘What happens next’ updated 25 Aug]  Will the Scottish Government’s 2013/14 draft budget see sense on cycling investment and, more generally, on active travel?  Spokes has submitted comments to the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee…

Just like last year, Scotland’s government is in the crazy position of having a hugely ambitious target to raise cycling from 1% of all trips to 10% by 2020 and yet investing only 1% of its transport budget in active travel – with well under 1% going to cycling infrastructure and projects.  The main difference from last year is that we are now yet another year closer to the magic 2020 – and making little progress!

As recently as March the government re-affirmed its 2020 target, bringing forward an amendment to that effect in the Scottish Parliament’s first ever debate on cycling policy.   The target is also firmly embedded as a ‘milestone’ in Low Carbon Scotland, the government’s Climate Change policy document, and is also a formal part of the government’s Obesity Strategy.

Clearly the target cannot be dropped without a big loss of face by the government, and without amending other policies and strategies.  Yet it is primary-school plain to any observer, and has been for several years, that the target cannot be met without a major rethink on transport investment.

Despite this, in last year’s draft budget the government, unbelievably, proposed to cut the 1% yet further!  Only a huge civil society campaign, in which many Spokes members played an invaluable part, persuaded the government to reverse most [though not all] of the proposed cuts.

Last year’s budget also included a Spending Review giving an initial framework for the 13/14 and 14/15 budgets.  On this basis, in the absence of a government re-think, Spokes expects active travel funding to remain very low in the 13/14 draft budget – followed by a partial recovery in election year, 14/15, though probably still not to the level the SNP inherited when they first came to power.

As the first stage in the 13/14 budget process, Parliament’s Finance Committee [which is cross-party, but with an SNP majority] put out a ‘Call for Evidence‘ as to “whether spending decisions align with the Scottish Government’s (stated) overarching purpose of increasing sustainable economic growth.”

The main theme of the Spokes Submission to the Finance Committee [pdf 176k] is that spending decisions on active travel, and specifically cycling investment, are far from being aligned with sustainable economic growth – or with the cycling target and the emissions and obesity policies.

In answer to other questions by the Finance Committee we point out that…

  • investment in active travel is more effective in terms of jobs (construction and maintenance) than investment in ‘big’ transport
  • it is also more effective in terms of providing local employment – for example, in just 3 years Sustrans, even under current low cycling investment levels,  employed local contractors in a remarkable 25 of the 32 Scottish local authorities
  • investment in active travel is an effective form of preventative spending – an ambition of the government – in terms of obesity and climate emissions

Based on Cycling England research, we also guesstimate the level of investment needed for the government to have a realistic hope of reaching its 10% cycle use target by 2020.   This comes out at £20 per person per year, i.e. £100m for the whole of Scotland, or 5% of the £2000m transport budget.  This 5% figure for cycling alone ties in beautifully with proposals by the Association of Directors of Public Health and by Scottish environmental/transport bodies [in the Active Travel, Active Scotland report] that 10% of transport funding should go to active travel as a whole.


The government has to publish its draft 13/14 budget before 20 September.  The draft then goes through a pattern of consultation and Committee scrutiny over the following months, with a final vote early in 2013.

Other organisations have also made submissions to the initial Finance Committee consultation – see them on our National Submissions page.

We anticipate an even more powerful campaign on the budget than last year, with many national organisations involved, ranging from the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition [a coalition of around 60 voluntary organisations] to Pedal on Parliament [who brought 3000 people on bikes to lobby Parliament earlier in 2012].

Another very positive factor is that a Scottish Parliament Cross-Party Group on Cycling has been set up, convened jointly by Spokes member and Green MSP Alison Johnstone, and SNP MSP Jim Eadie who was very supportive during last year’s budget campaign.  The Group includes representatives from Spokes, Go-Bike, PoP, Sustrans, Living Streets, CTC, etc.  On its behalf the two convenors have just written a powerful letter [pasted in below] to Transport Minister Keith Brown, including the crucial sentence, “Overall, there were a number of organisations and representatives who felt that the CAPS needed to be more of an evidenced plan to get us to the 10% target, with the funding to match.


Maybe we will all be surprised and the draft budget will begin to take active travel seriously after all!!   Please contact your MSPs now to try and make this happen … tell them what you want to see in the draft budget, and ask them to speak to Finance Secretary John Swinney MSP now.   You have one constituency MSP and around 7 Regional/List MSPs.  Find them all at


Letter from the Scottish Parliament Cross-Party Group on Cycling to Transport Minister Keith Brown MSP…

Dear Minister for Transport,

As you will know, there has been a recent surge of interest in cycling in all its forms and I know that there is a strong desire from the cycling community to see the Scottish Government’s target being met, with 10% of journeys made by bike in 2020.

The Cross Party Group on Cycling met in June and our main discussion was on the refresh of the Cycle Action Plan for Scotland*.  I have attached a list of the members of the CPG.

The group asked me to send a summary of key points to you as a contribution to the CAPS* process. There is significant concern from across cycling groups that the current plan, while it has many positive features, is unlikely to be enough to achieve the 2020 target.

Some of our member organisations have submitted views to you individually, but here are the overarching points discussed by the CPG.

  • The CAPS would benefit from interim targets. As with Scotland’s carbon targets, this would give an indication of the trajectory we are on and the impact and merit of different policies.
  • The CAPS would be stronger with numbers or targets attached to the stated aim of increasing the number of 20mph streets, and to the aim of increasing the number of children receiving on-road cycle training. The Scottish Parliament voted unanimously in March in favour of a target of 100% of school children being able to access on-road training by 2015.
  • More organisations could be brought on board and given a sense of ownership of the CAPS. There are clear opportunities for alignment with the National Walking Strategy and a clear relationship with the National Cycling Interest Group.
  • The issue of strict liability could be key in addressing road safety fears, and it was felt that work on this area could be sped up.
  • Local authorities would benefit from greater incentives to play their part in delivering the plan and committing their own funding to cycling improvements. It is clear that there are leaders and laggards among Scottish councils and more should be done to address this mixed picture.
    • Cycling targets could be included in local delivery targets
    • CAPS could require every council to have a dedicated cycle officer
    • In terms of political leadership, the Minister could convene a regular meeting of the 32 councillors with portfolio responsibility for transport to monitor and encourage progress.
  • The existing design guideline documents for cycle infrastructure would benefit from peer review and input from successful cycle friendly countries. The Danish and Dutch Cycle Embassies exist for this purpose. More could be done to ensure that every time roadworks are required for utilities or other work, cycle infrastructure is improved on streets and at junctions.
  • The target for 2010/11 of 8 businesses benefitting from loans for cycle friendly infrastructure such as bike parking and showers does not reflect the scale of the change needed and could be far more ambitious in future years.
  • Overall, there were a number of organisations and representatives who felt that the CAPS needed to be more of an evidenced plan to get us to the 10% target, with the funding to match. Each action in the plan should be assessed for the expected level of difference it will make, based on experience and evidence from elsewhere in the UK and other countries.

I hope this is a useful contribution and we look forward to your comments and seeing the refreshed plan for action.

Yours sincerely,
Alison Johnstone MSP and Jim Eadie MSP
Cross Party Group on Cycling

*CAPS is the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland, which includes the 10% 2020 cycle-use target, but was never accompanied by the funding to make this a reality.  The Spokes view [e.g. Spokes Bulletin 107 and others] has always been that CAPS is a collection of useful individual iniatives but not a costed and evidence-based path to achieving the 2020 target.  The government is currently undertaking a process to ‘refresh’ CAPS in the light of experience so far.

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