September 2012

Cycling up slightly in Budget

The Scottish government’s 2013/14 budget brings a small recovery in cycling investment from this year’s low point – but investment is still well under 1% of total transport spending, and nowhere near enough to reach the government’s 2020 target of 10% of all trips to be by bike…

[Update:  As soon as it became clear that the £6m below did include money which had to be spent in this financial year, 2012-13, on projects that were virtually ‘ready to go,’ Spokes suggested to Edinburgh Council to apply for money to widen and resurface North Meadow Walk.  The Council did so – and succeeded!   The work is expected to happen in Spring 2013.   The extra £6m for cycling in the government budget was thanks to the campaigns mentioned below – if  you wrote to your MSPs in 2011/12 about inadequate Scottish government cycle funding, then the North Meadow path rebuild will be partly thanks to you!  Letters about things like budgets may seem ‘abstract’ at the time, but these are the real-life on-the-ground results!]

The government appears to have learned its lesson from the massive campaign prompted by drastic cuts proposed for active travel in the draft budget last year – cuts which thanks to the campaign were largely (though not completely) reversed.  Continuing pressure throughout the year, notably Pedal on Parliament, reinforced the message.

So this year there are no cuts like last year’s in the draft budget, and indeed there is overall a small rise in cycling investment – albeit that the total for active travel is still “a drop in the ocean” according to Transform Scotland – and we agree.

As usual, the budget document is extremely obscure as regards cycling investment, which is hidden inside various bigger budget headings.  This despite the recommendation by the Scottish Parliament’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee 2012/13 budget report [Annex I, para 73] calling for proper transparency on active travel in the budget, and for consideration to setting active travel as a % of the total transport budget [para 69].

The position should clarify in the coming weeks, but this is what we think is happening…

  • £6m (over 2 years) for cycling ‘Community Links’   This was the headline cycling news in the budget.  That sounds like extra money for Sustrans work with local authority and other partners – a welcome development if so.  One would expect this to be £3m each in 13/14 and 14/15 because the budget is about future years but, cryptically, the Finance Secretary in his speech said it was for “this year and next.”  But – because of the lack of transparency in the budget, the above comments (apart from the fact of £6m additional funding) are speculation.
  • Sustainable and Active Travel  This budget line covers not only active travel, but low-carbon vehicles, car clubs, travel choice programmes – and, taking the bulk of the money, a bus scheme (Fastlink) and a park-and-ride (Halbeath)!  The SAT totals are up substantially on the provisional figures in last year’s Spending Review (13/14 up from £25m to £35m; 14/15 up from £15m to £19m).  We suspect these rises include the above £6m cycling increase and additional money already announced early this year (so-called ‘consequentials’ money), but again that is guesswork  as it is unclear from the budget document.  The apparent cut from 13/14 to 14/15 may be purely due to the phasing of  Fastlink and Halbeath, but again the budget doesn’t tell us.
  • CWSS  Cycling Walking Safer Streets money covers walking and ‘safer streets’ as well as cycling.  As predicted exclusively by Spokes in early 2012 [Bulletin 112, page 7] CWSS, which was £9m in 2010/11, is being cut yet again, to just £5.6m in 13/14, although it recovers to £8.2m for election year 2014/15.  However the fact that CWSS is actually specified in this budget is excellent, since its ‘to be confirmed‘ status in last year’s draft budget caused a lot of unnecessary campaigning as well as wasted time for government and COSLA officers.
  • Future Transport Fund  FTF covers low-carbon vehicles, car clubs, etc as well as active travel [i.e. it covers very similar topics to SAT above – ridiculously confusing!]  FTF totals for 13/14 & 14/15 are unchanged from what had been announced last year.  We understand that £1.25m FTF will go to cycling investment in 13/14 (from a total of £7.75m) and £4.5m in 14/15 (from a £18.75m total).
  • Trunk Road Cycling Initiative  A sum thought to be around £2m goes into cycling facilities beside trunk roads each year.  The budget document gives no indication at all as to the actual sum, and nor is there any thought given to whether the money would contribute better to the government cycle use target if partly invested in non-trunk-road areas of denser population or of higher tourist priority (such as the A90 path).
  • Smaller sums  Smaller amounts also sometimes go into cycling investment from sources such as Climate Challenge and some health budgets.

In total, we expect active travel investment in 2013/14 to be very roughly £20m, i.e. almost exactly 1% of total transport spending.   Clearly cycling investment is only part of that, and so will remain well under 1% of transport spending.

Meanwhile the motorways and trunk roads budget rises from £655m in 12/13 to £690m in 13/14; and total transport spending from £1887m in 12/13 to £2010m in 13/14.

Preventative Spend

The government has talked a great deal about ‘preventative spend‘ – investment which will prevent greater costs in the future – for example, health or environmental costs – and it was emphasised again in this budget speech.  Such spending areas get additional emphasis in budgets.  Strangely, the government never seems to include cycling investment in preventative spend measures, although the rationale has frequently been put to them by cycling organisations.

The Government’s 2020 Cycle-Use Target

The government some years ago set a target that by 2020 10% of journeys in Scotland should be by bike – but with no researched and costed path to meeting that target.  The target is now an official ‘milestone’ in the government’s Climate Change strategy, and is embedded in its obesity strategy.  In other words, if the cycling target is missed, then the Climate Change and Obesity strategies will be less likely to meet their own targets and objectives.  [For references to these documents and policies, see section A1 of the Spokes Budget submission to the Scottish Parliament Finance Committee].

Investment to meet the target – reprioritising transport spending

But – since the cycle-use target was set, active travel investment has hovered around 1% or less of total transport spending, with cycling investment therefore significantly under 1%.  Not surprisingly, cycle use in Scotland as a whole has hardly risen – although there are a few examples, notably Edinburgh, showing it is possible to grow cycle use substantially with the political will consistently to allocate realistic funding.

Had funding been allocated at a realistic European-style level when the target was set, we could be on the way to meeting it.  But Spokes has calculated (based on research by Cycling England) that to now have the slightest hope of reaching its own target the Scottish government needs to be investing £20 per head of population per year in cycling [see section A3 and footnote 11 of the above Spokes Finance Committee submission].  This equates to £100m a year – 5% of the transport budget – which ties in well with the calls by the Association of Directors of Public Health and many Scottish transport and environmental organisations for 10% of the transport budget to be allocated to active travel [references in section A3 of the above Spokes Finance Committee submission].

One obvious area where large sums could be saved is in trunk road widening, dualling and construction.   Arguments for cutting back here include the government’s climate change and public health objectives, whilst money invested in active travel is also more effective in terms of jobs [section A4 of above Spokes Finance Committee submission].   However, there is also a clear financial consideration where casualty reduction is the aim of a major road scheme.   Instead of costly road-building, average speed cameras can bring big casualty reductions – as shown on the government’s own Transport Scotland website, and highlighted by the A9 Safety Group.   Killed and seriously injured were cut by 50% in an A77 pilot scheme.   Spokes suggests that average speed cameras should always be considered before costly engineering projects are undertaken in the name of casualty reduction.

Other areas of the transport budget should also be scrutinised – for example, given the very low public take-up of electric cars, would some of this funding be more effective if used for active travel?

More Background Info from Spokes

Sep 22 Submission to Scottish Parliament Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee [pdf 153k]
Aug 23 Submission to Scottish Parliament Finance Committee [pdf 176k]

What You Can Do

If concerned about government investment in cycling, please contact your MSPs and ask them to lobby for improvements as the draft budget goes through Parliament.   Explain briefly why this matters to you.  Find your MSPs at








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