February 2015

Scottish Government cycling cash 2001-2015

Funding for cycling in Scotland in 2014/15 is at its highest level ever, though it is well below what would be needed to achieve the 2020 ‘vision‘ of 10% of trips by bike … and without further changes it will fall somewhat in 2015/16

Many Spokes members have written to their MSPs about the 2015/16 budget.  Several have forwarded us a reply from local SNP MSP Marco Biagi, who said “According to figures collated by Spokes, Scottish Government funding is 61% higher, adjusted for inflation, than cycling funding in the last year of the previous administration.”  Members have asked us to comment on that.

The 61% figure is not ours – it is presumably Marco’s calculation based on some of our figures.  However, we are happy to agree that there was a very substantial rise in cycling investment for the current year 2014/15.

To clarify things we have put together data for every year since the turn of the century.

The data attempts to cover government cycling investment from all main sources (including, for example, trunk road cycle spending) but does not include local authority expenditure from their own resources.  Government cycling money which is used by councils (e.g. cycling elements of the CWSS fund) is included.

For our full data, click here  [pdf 135k]

The overall story, in our view, is…

  • Significant Scottish government investment in cycling began under the previous (Lab/Lib) adminstration (in large part thanks to Spokes member Sarah Boyack MSP) and increased fairly consistently year by year, reaching around £15m in their last budget, 2007/08 [£19m in today’s figures, i.e. inflation-adjusted].
  • Under the first SNP government cycling investment was at first cut to below £12m [£14.4m inflation-adjusted] and by the 2011 election rose back to roughly the level they had inherited.
  • Under the present SNP government funding rose slowly at first, starting at £17.5m, but then, in 2014/15, there was the very big increase to £39m, which is what makes Marco’s claim valid.
  • Overall, taking inflation into account, and until the big jump in 2014/15, the SNP invested significantly less in cycling on average during its first 6 years in power (£17m inflation-adjusted) than the Lab/Lib government had in either of its last 2 years (£20m and £18.6m, inflation-adjusted).

Our funding data also reminds us that…

  • Cycling investment has hovered somewhat under 1% of total transport spending for many years, only rising significantly as a % in 2014/15, but still only to nearly 2%.
  • There have been several occasions, as in the next 3 bullet points, when strong campaigning has prevented major cuts
  • Under the Lab/Lib government 06/07 would have seen a major cut in cycling investment due to the Public Transport Fund being scrapped, but we successfully fought for new cycling cash to more than make up for this
  • When the SNP became a minority government in 2007 they proposed to scrap the crucial Cycling, Walking and Safer Streets fund – this was only prevented by Patrick Harvie MSP making it a condition of the Greens voting for the budget
  • When the SNP became a majority government in 2011 their first budget included a big cut in cycling investment.  Thanks to a truly massive campaign by Spokes and other groups [Jim Eadie MSP received over 100 letters and emails] the cut was reversed.   [Spokes 111, 112].
  • Subsequently [until the 15/16 draft budget] there have been rises in cycling investment every year, albeit small at first, then the big 14/15 jump.   These years, of course, have coincided with Pedal on Parliament, which could help explain things!

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