[Update Dec 17: Jim Eadie MSP asks Deputy 1st Minister John Swinney MSP for some of this cash to go to cycling – see tweets & video at end of our Dec 10 story. Your emails/visits/phones to MSPs are helping – please continue!]
There’s a short window of opportunity to gain a modest one-off boost to Scottish cycling investment. Please send a quick email to your MSPs now…
The Scottish Government is to receive a £213m boost as a result of the UK Chancellor’s Autumn Budget Statement [thanks to the so-called ‘Barnet consequentials’]. Finance Secretary John Swinney MSP has said £125m of it will go to the NHS, but the remainder is not yet allocated. The government will decide very soon – possibly in the next few days, certainly the next few weeks – how to use this money.
Please email your MSPs right now! Ask them to contact Finance Secretary John Swinney MSP and Transport Minister Derek Mackay MSP to urge that some of the funding goes to cycling investment, and to let you know how they get on. Find your MSPs at www.writetothem.com.
Don’t send a long email. Use your own ideas, but if you want suggestions you might like to make a couple of brief points based on one or two of the following…
- The UK government has just announced £214m additional cycling investment in England, so surely the Scottish Government will add to cycling investment too with some of its £213m funding boost [NB – in case you are wondering, it’s a complete coincidence that these 2 figures are so similar, £213m and £214m; they have no connection with each other].
- John Swinney MSP recently presented the draft Scottish 2015/16 budget to Parliament, but made a serious error in his speech [explained below]. He could rectify this error by allocating £5m of the £231m to cycling infrastructure.
- Under the draft Scottish budget, total 2015/16 cycling investment will be less than the 2014/15 total – unless additional funding is allocated, as could be done from the £231m.
- Mention a local project that would make a big difference to conditions for getting about by bike in your area, town or city. Edinburgh, for example, is planning a major city-centre east-west route, but this is only likely to be possible with 50/50 government match-funding.
- Sustrans has cycle projects across Scotland ‘ready to go’ as soon as funding becomes available.
- Former Transport Minister Keith Brown MSP, now promoted to Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, has promised publicly to ‘fight his corner’ to get money for cycling investment should this type of one-off funding opportunity arise. Now he has the chance!
Of course, one-off short-term funding like this is not the real answer – we need substantial and ongoing funding. However, in the absence of that, one-off cash injections can make a big difference in the local areas which benefit from them.
BUDGET SPEECH ERROR
In his budget speech to the Scottish Parliament, Finance Secretary John Swinney – who is now also the Deputy First Minister – promised..
“an additional £10 million next year for cycling and walking infrastructure“
That sounds completely clearcut, and the press and MSPs took it at face value – but Spokes has identified that the actual draft budget document only allocates £5m for infrastructure. The so-called £10m for infrastructure is in fact £5m for infrastructure plus £5m for ‘Smarter Choices’ behaviour-change programmes (and the latter £5m had in fact been pre-announced in June). For the full story see here.
What is more, we have now identified that not all the £5m for ‘Smarter Choices’ is even for walking and cycling. It can also be spent on a wide range of initiatives such as car sharing, bus ticketing incentives, bus shelters and so on. Spokes has no argument with such initiatives, many of which are useful – but no way do they meet John Swinney’s promise to Parliament of additional money for cycling and walking infrastructure.
Unless the missing £5m infrastructure money is found from elsewhere in the budget – or from the £231m above – Mr Swinney’s promise to Parliament will have been bogus.
YOU’VE DONE IT BEFORE!
Does all this sound too abstract? Is it really worth the effort of emailing your MSPs??
A very similar situation arose in December 2012. Many people emailed their MSPs, and as a result Spokes member Alison Johnstone MSP [Lothians, Green] and Jim Eadie MSP [Edinburgh Southern, SNP] took it up at a face-to-face meeting with government Finance Secretary John Swinney, the man with the purse strings – and the government allocated some of the extra cash to cycling investment.
Who knows which parts of Scotland will benefit if we get this new cash injection? – it could be yours! And who will lose out if not? – without it, cycling investment in 2015/16 looks set to be down from 2014/15, with infrastructure suffering particularly badly.