[Update Dec 17: Deputy 1st Minister John Swinney MSP agrees to meet Jim Eadie MSP to discuss cycle funding – see tweets & video at end below. Your emails/visits/phones to MSPs are helping – please continue!]
New Scottish Government Transport Minister Derek Mackay MSP is honing his skills at skating … around a question …
Following our investigation into the ‘additional £10m’ promised for walking and cycling infrastructure by Deputy First Minster and Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney MSP in his budget speech to Parliament, a Parliamentary Question was tabled by Claudia Beamish MSP, a Deputy Convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Cycling.
Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Scottish Labour): To ask the Scottish Government whether the additional £10 million active travel infrastructure announced in the budget speech is included in the draft budget 2015-16. (S4W-23366)
Mr Derek Mackay MSP: Yes. As stated on page 124 of the draft budget 2015-16 we have committed an additional £10 million in 2015-16 to support the delivery of improved cycling and walking infrastructure, and to support its use and help people make smarter travel choices.
Mr Mackay’s reply is at best skating round the question, at worst inaccurate.
Spokes has shown conclusively, after detailed correspondence with Deputy First Minister John Swinney, that only £5m of the ‘additional £10m’ he announced to Parliament in his Budget Speech is in fact for walking and cycling infrastructure. The other £5m is for Smarter Choices Smarter Places behaviour-change projects [SCSP] – with rules [see below] that explicitly rule out walking and cycling infrastructure.
Even the Draft Budget document, to which Mr Mackay refers in his answer [but, interestingly, does not quote] backs up Mr Swinney’s promise that the ‘additional £10m’ is for infrastructure. The section dealing with the ‘additional £10m’ is, as Mr Mackay says, on page 124. That section, entitled Budget Changes, says…
“… additional funding of £10 million in 2015-16 has been allocated for Support for Sustainable and Active Travel, aimed at cycling and walking infrastructure …”
and that this change enables the government to
“continue to invest in infrastructure to encourage cycling and walking ...”
There is no mention of the additional £10m being used to support “use” of infrastructure and to “help people make smarter travel choices” as Mr Mackay suggests in his answer. Yet, as our investigations clearly show, £5m of the £10m is being used for SCSP projects, not for the promised infrastructure.
Spokes has no objection to government cash for SCSP publicity and campaigns if they bring about a long-lasting shift from car use to public transport, walking, cycling, car-share and car clubs. Indeed cash for SCSP has been welcomed by councils. However it is totally unacceptable, and indeed surely disrespectful to Parliament, that £5m of the £10m for walking and cycling infrastructure announced to Parliament by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, in one of the most high-profile speeches of the year, is instead used for other purposes.
Now, after further investigation, we have discovered… THE SUPREME IRONY
The ‘additional £10m’ was specifically promised for ‘walking and cycling infrastructure’ and yet £5m of it is instead to be used for SCSP. The SCSP criteria specifically rule out use of the money for walking and cycling infrastructure [section 1.4] – but they do allow it to be spent on certain types of public transport infrastructure!! [section 1.3, interchange improvements, including bus shelters]
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Ask your MSPs to speak about this to Transport Minister Derek Mackay and Finance Secretary John Swinney. Find them at www.writetothem.com.
The government is working on changes to the draft budget during December and the holiday period, ready for final negotiations with the other parties, and a final budget vote, early in the New Year.
If Mr Swinney’s promise to Parliament of an additional £10m for walking & cycling infrastructure is to be genuine, then the budget must be adjusted to add the missing £5m. There are many ways this could be done. If the government is unwilling to find it from the £45m additional trunk road spending included in the budget then, without affecting any part of the existing budget, it could come from the £213m ‘consequentials’ money which Scotland receives following the UK Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.
Of course the missing £5m is just one small step towards the government’s aim of a rapid rise in cycle use – but it will fund a number of useful projects and, being in the budget, it helps set the bar for future years. Moreover it would just be enough to allow the government to argue fairly convincingly that total active travel investment was no longer set to fall in 2015/16.
UPDATE DEC 11 – your emails/visits are helping – keep it up!!
— Spokes CycleCampaign (@SpokesLothian) December 11, 2014