November 2013

Independent of Cycling?

What vision does the Independence White Paper promise for transport – and for cycling and walking in particular? …

Scotland’s Future, the White Paper on the 2014 referendum, has just been published.  We outline here its thoughts on transport.

Of course, much will depend on which party/parties would be elected in an independent Scotland, and so the White Paper is certainly not definitive.   An independent Scottish Government might view transport from a sustainability perspective – or it might equally take the business-as-usual ‘go faster/go further’ view.

Unfortunately the transport future envisaged in the government’s White Paper is certainly not encouraging from a sustainability perspective – concentrating on expanding fast and long-distance travel, particularly road and air, with no vision or even mention of expanding local opportunities, local trips and local sustainability, or of reducing the need to travel.

The main transport elements are below.  Some of these points are worthy, but the heavy emphasis on trunk roads and on encouraging long-distance travel by road and air contrasts vividly with the government’s much heralded sustainability stance and also restricts the funding available for sustainable and healthy alternatives.

  • [p128]  “dualling the road network between all our cities by 2030” – this appears to go significantly further than the existing £3000m promise to dual the A96 between Aberdeen and Inverness and the £3000m promise to dual the A9.
  • [p128] “substantial investment” in Highland Mainline and Aberdeen-Inverness rail … but, unlike the road programme, no promise to dual these lines.  Will lorries and passengers move from rail to the dualled A9/A96 instead of vice versa?
  • [p127] Rail electrification [the extent is unspecified]
  • [p128] High speed rail between Edinburgh and Glasgow [is this the best use of a huge sum?]
  • [p129] Cutting Air Passenger Duty to encourage more flying to/from Scotland
  • [p129] Keeping petrol costs low

Sadly, in its 650 pages and 170,000 words, the White Paper does not use words such as ‘cycling’ or even ‘walking.’   The nearest we get is…

  • [p130] “In addition, current devolved responsibilities include … sustainable transport, road safety and accessibility … after independence, these services and responsibilities will continue as now.”   No vision of a new approach to local transport and accessibility.
  • [p291-2] “Scotland can be a beacon of environmentalism and
    sustainability” … “our recent, second Report on Proposals and Policies sets out a strategy for Scotland to deliver a 57.8 per cent reduction in emissions by 2027.”  Sadly, the transport section of this RPP document has been heavily criticised as unrealistic on transport emissions, and is even weaker on cycling and walking than the first RPP  [June 2013 SCCSSpokes submission on the draft RPP2]

It cannot be argued that these issues are omitted because they are already devolved matters, since many transport and other policies discussed in the White Paper are also already devolved.

If there was a serious new vision for local transport and accessibility, and of reducing rather than expanding the need to travel, it would undoubtedly feature in this 650-page document.  Instead, the overall approach to transport is ‘business as usual’ – but more so.


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