January 2015

No new cycling cash!

The government’s first ever active travel debate brings no new initiatives and no new cash!  Why was this debate called?

The best that new Transport Minister, Derek Mackay MSP, could do was to promise “further announcements on funding in due course” – this has already been reported by the BBC online, with the implication it means more cash.  Of course, it could mean that, but going on past experience it is equally likely to mean…

  • announcing how existing funding will be used; or
  • re-announcing cash which has already been announced [as in the government’s recent budget speech]

Mr MacKay also said he had written to Spokes about funding.   We await this letter with interest.

Without a true announcement of at least £5m additional funding before the budget is finalised, then, as described in yesterday’s article

  • Cycle funding will fall in 2015/16 from 2014/15, and within that infrastructure spending will fall most
  • The error in then Cabinet Secretary John Swinney’s budget speech will remain.

Co-Convener of the Cross Party Cycling Group, and Spokes member Alison Johnstone MSP referred to the Spokes budgetary calculations and urged that active travel investment is not just maintained without cuts, but is drastically increased to 10% of transport spending – as recommended by the Association of Directors of Public Health and over 100 other professional, academic and other organisations [see links in yesterday’s article].

Spokes member and former Transport Minister Sarah Boyack MSP pointed out that the transport budget had risen from around £300m to £2000m since the Scottish Parliament was establised – but that investment in active travel has not risen in anything like the same way as ‘big transport’ such as trunk roads and rail.

More optimistically – a very powerful speech by Jim Eadie MSP, new Infrastructure Committee Convener, who has secured a meeting with Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP on cycle funding, gave hope that there may yet be a positive announcement soon of new active travel cash from the Barnet Consequentials.   So – ask your MSPs to speak to John Swinney about this, if you have not already done so.

Stop Press [8.1.15]  It has just been revealed that the Scottish Government had a record massive £444m underspend in 2013/14, including £102m in the infrastructure portfolio.  This cash is still available for use – so here is yet another opportunity for a one-off active-travel top-up to, at the least, avoid a cutback in cycling infrastructure investment in 2015/16.

Debate reports & transcript

The above article was written during and immediately after the debate.

A full transcript of the debate is now available on the Parliament website here.

Reports on the debate have also been published by Pedal on Parliament and by Darkerside.

Postscript – voting

The following amendment by Alison Johnstone which would have significantly toughened the motion was defeated 60-43 with 11 abstentions…
  • For:  Green + Labour (+ Lib Dem?)
  • Against:  SNP
  • Abstain:  Conservative

S4M-11980.2 Alison Johnstone: Active TravelAs an amendment to motion S4M-11980 in the name of Derek Mackay (Active Travel), insert at end “; reaffirms the Scottish Government’s target of 10% of journeys to be made by bike by 2020; notes the estimate by Spokes that active travel funding in the 2015-16 draft budget is lower than in the previous year; calls on the Scottish Government to reverse this cut and substantially increase funding for active travel; notes the ongoing debate and research into the introduction of presumed liability in relation to road accidents, and urges local authorities to meet growing demand for high-quality walking and cycling infrastructure, extend 20mph speed limits in built-up areas and provide walking and cycling training opportunities to every child in Scotland”.

The following more modest Labour amendment was accepted…

S4M-11980.1 David Stewart: Active Travel—As an amendment to motion S4M-11980 in the name of Derek Mackay (Active Travel), insert at end ―; acknowledges that the number of people participating in active travel has remained relatively stagnant and more needs to be done to increase the number of people cycling and walking as a normal means of transport through improving infrastructure, promotion activities and road safety, and calls on the Scottish Government to set out how the active travel budget for 2015-16 will be spent, in particular the proportion that will be allocated to cycling and walking infrastructure‖.

The original motion…

S4M-11980 Derek Mackay: Active Nation That the Parliament recognises the success of active travel programmes in enabling more people to be active more often, with record levels of investment in active travel; celebrates the 20th anniversary of the National Cycle Network; welcomes the publication of the second Cycling Action Plan for Scotland and the first National Walking Strategy; acknowledges the cross-party commitment to promoting active travel and progress made by the Scottish Government since 1999, alongside external partners, in laying the foundations for a more active and healthier nation, and commits to working together to realise the active travel vision, which outlines how Scotland will look in 2030 if more people are walking and cycling.

The original motion, with the Labour amendment added on, was passed with 111 in favour, 3 against and zero abstentions.

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