January 2015
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Budget Hope?

The vote on the Scottish 2015/16 budget is near … and there is some hope of improvement in cycling infrastructure investment …

On January 21st the Scottish Parliament had another debate on the draft budget for 2015/16.   In its current form, the draft budget means less investment in cycling than in 2014/15, with a particularly large drop in infrastructure – the type of 50/50 matched-funding used to assist and incentivise councils to build routes such as Edinburgh’s forthcoming Canal-Meadows-Innocent route, or the great improvements we are seeing on the A90 route out to Queensferry and Fife.

However, in the Jan 21 budget debate Green MSP Patrick Harvie said, “We have raised issues to do with sustainable transport, air pollution hotspots, and our on-going interest in the wave and tidal sector.  We look forward to seeing progress being made on all those issues. If it is, we will be able to vote in favour of the bill at stage 3.

Replying, Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP said, “Patrick Harvie … also raised points about energy efficiency and sustainable travel, which the Government will consider seriously.

This of course guarantees nothing, but it’s a positive hint that in the 2 weeks or so of inter-party negotiations before the final budget vote there’s a prospect of additional funding – at least to ensure that funding does not fall from the 2014/15 total and, hopefully, rises instead.

It also follows the promise by Transport Minister Derek Mackay of “further announcements on funding” – though that too is not a guarantee of an increase.

And it follows the powerful call by Parliament’s ICI Committee for the government to consider “substantial additional funding” for active travel.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Clearly, as explained above, the Scottish Government is considering putting more cash into active travel.  Please help make this happen!!

If you have not recently contacted your MSPs about active travel funding, please do so now – as soon as possible.  Find them at www.writetothem.com.

We understand the final budget debate and vote may well be on 4th February, so John Swinney will now be talking to other parties – he is always very keen to get as near all-party support as possible, rather than a bare majority, for what is one of the most important votes of the year.

Tell your MSPs – briefly – why cycling investment matters to you.  Ask them to speak up for this in the budget inter-party negotiations, and to let you know the outcome.

If you wish to quote any evidence, the above ICI Committee report is useful.

Also, a big feature of the Jan 21 budget debate, raised by several speakers, was the need for ‘preventive spending’ – for example to keep people healthy now rather than incurring NHS costs later.  Active Travel investment is a perfect example of preventive spending, though it was not used as an example by any speaker in this debate.

You could refer to active travel’s preventive value, and point out the recent widely-publicised Cambridge University study on the importance of everyday physical activity.

As Prof John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, says [at the end of the above BBC news item] changes to our surroundings are needed to make exercise easier and, in particular,  “We need substantial investment in cycling infrastructure.”

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