October 2014
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Budget Confusion yet again!

The Scottish Government’s draft budget 2015/16 is once again as obscure as ever on active travel funding, though it looks at best static or down from 2014/15…

[This article is written in haste.  We hope to add further links soon].

Whilst the draft budget document includes a welcome ‘extra’ £10m “aimed at walking and cycling infrastructure,” other cash which boosted 2014/15 active travel investment (AT) – including Forth Bridge underspend and some Barnet consequentials – is now over.

The fact that (if we have understood it properly) the £10m is now part of a regular budget line (SAT – Sustainable and Active Travel) is however an improvement.

The 3 main funding sources for active travel are…

CWSS [Cycling Walking Safer Streets]  14/15 £8.2m -> 15/16 £8.0m

CWSS is allocated to all Scottish Councils on the basis of population, and councils use anything from 20% to 100% of it for cycling infrastructure.   Across Scotland roughly 75% of it goes clearly to cycling and walking, with the rest to traffic management, etc (under the Safer Streets heading).

This is a critical budget line as, tragically, around half of all councils put no capital of their own into cycling infrastructure and rely entirely on their CWSS allocation.

SAT [Sustainable and Active Travel]  14/15 £29m -> 15/16 £25m

In 14/15 around £10m of the £29m was due to go to the Glasgow Fastlink bus scheme.  Some SAT funding also goes to electric vehicles, car clubs and so on, and the final split is not clear for some time.   In last year’s budget Mr Swinney had allocated £15m for SAT in 15/16, but now he has upped it to £25m, this being the abovementioned £10m ‘increase.’   A very rough guesstimate is that £20m of this year’s £25m may go to AT.

FTF [Future Transport Fund]  14/15 £18.75m -> 15/16 £20.25m

This fund is a real hotch-potch, even more so than SAT, and also covering very similar areas to SAT.  It is crazy to have these confused budget lines instead of a clear Active Travel total allocation.   Last year £4.5m of the £18.75m went to AT [all to cycling/waling infrastructure, via Sustrans].  On that basis we might expect around £5m in 15/16, but the % has varied wildly in earlier years, and it would not be surprising if anything from zero to £10m or so went to AT.

Extras

As mentioned above, part way through last year £7m additional funding was granted for cycling infrastructure from Forth Bridge underspending.  In 14/15 AT also benefitted from the remains of some earlier so-called Barnet-Consequentials one-off cash.   These sums are now over, and roughly balance out the above rise in SAT money.   Of course, further one-0ff cash may become available during 15/16!

Overall

  • Funding for Active Travel in 2015/16 is likely to be static or slightly lower compared to 14/15.
  • The Scottish Government’s budget is as confused as ever on active travel funding – despite repeated calls by the Scottish Parliament ICI Committee and its predecessors for clarity.
  • At current levels of funding the government has no hope whatsoever of reaching its ambition of 10% of all trips by bike in 2020 (compared to 1%-2% now).
  • Not to be entirely negative, active travel funding in both 14/15 and 15/16 is noticeably higher than in earlier years.   However, whilst we had hoped that 14/15 marked the start of an ongoing rise and drive to reach the 2020 ambition, it looks more like 14/15 was a peak or at best the start of a plateau in investment.

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