Wednesday 7 January 2015 brings what we think is the first ever Scottish government-sponsored debate on active travel – a great development. Scotland needs a big ramping up in cycling & walking investment – but maybe we’ll at least have a wee one!
It is surprising for this debate to be announced shortly before the Scottish budget is finalised, and we can only hope this means that a funding announcement will be included. Perhaps any announcement has been prompted by the large number of members of the public who have contacted MSPs following our revelations of an error in the budget speech [see below] and the announcement of additional money for Scotland from UK ‘consequentials’ – some of which could potentially go to active travel.
The government motion to be debated is…
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.
[later] Amendment by Alison Johnstone MSP…
S4M-11980.2 Alison Johnstone: Active Travel—As 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”.
Here are a few of our advance thoughts, concentrating mainly on funding issues…
- It would be great if the government accepted the recommendations of the Association of Directors of Public Health, endorsed by over 100 other professional, academic, voluntary and other bodies, that 10% of the transport budget should be allocated to active travel. In recent years the actual figure has hovered around 1%.
- The motion says we now have record levels of investment in active travel. That is true in 2014/15, when total government active travel funding (including cash allocated post-budget from Forth Bridge underspending) rose to around £40m (our estimate), nearly 2% of the transport budget. Unfortunately in the 2015/16 draft budget it falls to around £37m. See our calculations in section 3 of our budget submission.
- Furthermore, within the total active travel funding, the amount going to infrastructure is set to fall drastically, from around £36m in 2014/15 to around £28m in 2015/16 [see our budget submission as above]. This will affect councils across Scotland, as far less 50/50 match funding for cycleroute projects will be available.
- In his budget speech, Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney MSP promised “an additional £10 million next year for cycling and walking infrastructure.” Our detailed investigations, including correspondence with Mr Swinney, show this to be false – only £5m is for infrastructure, the rest for promotional campaigns etc [and covering public transport, car-share etc as well as walking and cycling]. However, when challenged by MSPs, Ministers have skated round this error with ‘clever’ wording.
- The most basic element of active travel funding is CWSS, the ring-fenced Cycling, Walking and Safer Streets money allocated to councils on a per-capita basis, introduced in 2001 when Sarah Boyack MSP was Transport Minister, and preserved only thanks to some tough campaigns. Whilst on average only 75% or so of CWSS goes directly to active travel (the rest to ‘safer streets’) many councils invested zero in cycling before the fund began. Under the previous Lab/Lib government CWSS rose to £9m a year, but this was cut year by year under the SNP, down to just £5.6m in 2013/14, only recovering to £8.2m in 14/15 and £8.0m in 15/16.
- If an additional £5m+ for active travel infrastructure is announced in the debate, it will mean that the above budget speech error will no longer apply, and that the motion is also (just!) correct in suggesting that active travel funding is at a record level – albeit it will be nowhere near the above 10% professional recommendations, nor will it bring any hope of reaching the government’s ambition for 10% of all trips to be by bike in 2020.
- Iain Docherty, professor of public policy at Glasgow University, said recently [Local Transport Today, 18.12.14] that current active travel investment “out of a total budget for transport in the order of £2bn neither demonstrates sufficient commitment nor will make a significant difference to the extent to which walking and cycling really become more important in the overall transport mix in Scofland. I regard the remarkable and consistent lack of investment in the pedestrian environment and wider public realm of our towns and cities as a national disgrace, and I continue to be highly disappointed by the lack of commitment to redressing the situation.“
Watch the debate live after 2.30pm on Parliament TV.
RoadShare, the Campaign for Presumed Liability, briefing to MSPs.
Transform Scotland briefing to MSPs.
Previous Parliamentary cycling debate 29 March 2012 – sponsored by Green MSPs.