Scottish Transport Minister Derek Mackay MSP has announced an additional £3.3m for active travel (mainly infrastructure) this financial year, bringing the total to nearly £40m, roughly 1.9% of total transport spending.
Speaking at the 14 October Active Travel summit this fulfills his promise first made at PoP2015 [Spokes 122, page 6], and repeated many times since, that funding would exceed the 14/15 record. After many years hovering just under 1% of transport spending, we have now had two years doubled to just under 2%. [Why did funding rise substantially in 14/15? – see Spokes 119, page 7].
The cash will mainly be distributed via Sustrans Community Links, under which Councils and certain other bodies can bid for 50/50 match funding for cycling infrastructure. Being announced so late in the financial year, the cash has to be spent within just 6 months, so we suspect it is likely to mainly go to existing bids sitting in Sustrans’s ‘waiting list.’
Despite the increase, the 15/16 total of under £40m, less than 2% of transport spending, is still way below European levels or what would give any hope of meeting the government’s ambition for 10% of all trips to be by bike in 2020. The latest Scottish Household Survey suggests that the % of all trips made by bike rose a little in 2014 to 1.4% which, astonishingly, is the highest figure for many years – still rather a long way to go!!
Future Funding Uncertainty
Cycling investment in future years is currently a complete unknown. It may rise, fall or stay static. To the dismay of Council cycling officers, and bodies like Sustrans – who have to plan ahead for cycle projects and for the deployment and employment of staff for cycling – the Scottish Budget for 16/17 is unlikely to be passed until a very few weeks before the 16/17 financial year begins. And even when it is passed, we fear that the amount for cycling projects will still be unclear, as the ‘umbrella’ headings in the budget like Future Transport Fund and Sustainable and Active Travel look set to remain, with the amount for Cycling or Active Travel within these headings not being announced till much later. Our reasoning is explained in this article.
Segregated onroad exemplar award
In addition to the £3.3m, the Minister also announced at the Active Travel Summit…
- A new award is to be created for exemplar on-road segregated infrastructure – an idea from the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Cycling Group, first proposed by Claudia Beamish MSP, and backed by the Group’s conveners, Jim Eadie MSP, Alison Johnstone MSP, Sarah Boyack MSP. Mr Mackay gave no details but said he hoped to do so at the Cycling Scotland conference in November. We guess the award will be in the form of cash towards the best proposals submitted, but that is pure speculation.
- He has held a cross-portfolio meeting with Ministers responsible for Education, Environment, Local Government and Health, to discuss working together to boost walking and cycling. First project will be developing new policies to tackle the car-based school run.
- He is to ‘refresh’ the National Transport Strategy – and it is likely to have more on walking & cycling and on climate impacts of transport. Spokes has written to the Minister asking that it includes a rewrite of the Trunk Road Cycling Initiative, which has never been updated since introduced in 1996 by then-Conservative Scottish Transport Minister Lord James Douglas-Hamilton MP.
Disappointing Summit attendance – but RTPs engage
This was the first Ministerial ‘Active Travel Summit’ following two years of ‘Cycling Summits’ hosted by previous Scottish Transport Minister Keith Brown MSP. The idea of the summits is to bring together top transport decision makers from Councils, to enable high level discussion with the Minister.
Unfortunately, unlike the previous cycling summits, attendance was disappointing, with fewer councils and fewer top people. The reasons are unclear.
- Ayrshire (Roads Alliance of East and South Ayrshire)
- North Ayrshire
- East Dunbarton
- Perth & Kinross
Only 12 of the 32 Scottish Councils attended – but, interestingly, all except one (shockingly, Strathclyde) of the 6 mainland Regional Transport Partnerships did attend. This seems to reinforce the case for giving RTPs back greater resources for assisting cycling development – as used to be the case until scrapped by the SNP when they came to power [Spokes 99, p8 & p1]. Firstly, many local councils are on the small side to have experienced cycling teams, so expertise at regional level could be valuable. Secondly, councils rightly tend to concentrate their limited cycling resources on the most densely populated areas, but a more strategic input is also needed to ensure cross-boundary routes and linkages – RTPs are well placed to handle this.