January 2016

Scottish Budget: a realistic proposal

Spokes has written to the Scottish Parliament Infrastructure Committee suggesting a politically realistic option for preventing damage to Council cycling budgets in 2016/17.   If you agree, please contact your MSPs in support…

Although government cycling investment in the 16/17 draft budget is roughly similar to this year (15/16) Spokes has already revealed that the way the budget is structured is likely to mean lower cycling investment in nearly all councils.   The changes mean that Councils are likely to find less match-funding from their own resources and from outside bodies, resulting in total Scottish cycling investment being likely to fall noticeably.

We have also pointed out – like many others such as Transform Scotland – that the draft budget is the opposite of what Scotland’s Climate Change policies demand. Cash for trunk roads rises drastically, rail is cut, councils get much less money to fill potholes and maintain local roads, and cash for cycling and walking is static or marginally lower.  The contrast between road, rail and council cash is only too obvious in this graphic from the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre, SPICe.


Click for bigger version

Along with many other organisations, including Sustrans, Walk-Cycle-Vote and Pedal on Parliament, Spokes is supporting the long-standing call by the Association of Directors of Public Health for 10% of transport budgets to be allocated to Cycling and Walking [see our letter for relevant links].  This is a key call to political parties for their Holyrood election manifestos, and which would apply to budgets from 17/18 onwards.

However, with the 16/17 budget process on a curtailed timetable and now well advanced, and an overall government majority in the Scottish Parliament, there is zero hope of a major restructuring of the 16/17 budget.


Spokes has therefore proposed to MSPs that 1% of the 16/17 trunk roads budget is transferred to active travel – a politically realistic option.

With the Scottish Government expecting councils to cut their existing spending levels by 7% (except on social care) it is surely possible for the government to cut their own drastically increased trunk roads budget by 1%.

Although a cut of 1% is small, the amount thus ‘saved’ from the £820m trunk roads budget, £8.2m, would make a big difference to cycling and walking.

In our letter to MSPs we have shown how the £8.2m could be used…

  • £2.1m to prevent a planned 25% cut, from £8m to £5.9m, in the Cycling Walking and Safer Streets fund which government allocates to all councils, based on population size.  This is the basic cycling/walking fund from which councils work to raise additional match-funding from outside sources such as European funds or Sustrans.
  • £6.1m to fund the 16/17 element of the Community Links Plus scheme for major segregated onroad projects – the government’s present plans will fund it by cutting back on the cash which funds large numbers of smaller cycling infrastructure projects right across Scotland (such as the recently opened Edinburgh Innocent-Meadows link, or towpath upgrading).
  • We note in passing that we are also extremely concerned that road surfaces (and footway surfaces for pedestrians) are going to suffer from the drastic overall cut in council funding.  This is not something which cycle budgets are intended for or would be anything like big enough to tackle – it would require some wider initiative which is beyond our scope here.

Read our full letter to MSPs here.



  • Write to your MSPs – you have one constituency MSP and 7 ‘regional list’ MSPs and you have a right to tackle them all if you wish.  If you feel very strongly, ask if you can speak to them by phone or at their office.
  • Say very briefly why investment in cycling matters to you, and what you would like to see in the 16/17 budget.  If you support our idea above, you could ask them to support it and speak to the Finance Secretary about it.
  • There is no need to go into a lot of detail on the finances unless you wish to.  If so, the main concerns (as explained above an in more detail in our letter) are…
    • that the CWSS fund is being cut by 25%
    • that the new Community Links Plus scheme is not funded by new money, but by cutting back on existing funding for smaller (but very important) schemes
    • that as a result of these two points, one or two councils in Scotland will have an excellent big cycling project, but the 30 or so other councils will be able to do less for cycling, as they will have less government cash – which also means they will be able to raise less ‘match-funds’ from other sources.
  • Remember the above is for the 16/17 budget.  Please also add briefly what you would like to see in their party manifesto for this year’s Holyrood elections – perhaps including our top idea that 10% of transport budgets should go to walking and cycling.  Check out the Walk-Cycle-Vote campaign, of which Spokes is a part, for more ideas.
  • Send us copies of any useful replies.

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