May 2016

Election: new opportunities beckon!!

The surprise Holyrood ‘no overall majority’ election result brings a glimmer of new hope for increased cycling investment and will make MSPs even more interested in listening to constituents…

The SNP manifesto had promised to maintain cycling investment at its current level (1.9% of total transport spending) whereas the Greens, Labour, LibDems and even Conservatives had all promised increases of one sort or another – see our manifesto analysis.

With no overall majority, the SNP will now have to cooperate with one or more of the other parties to get its budgets through.  This does not guarantee increased cycling investment, as it is only one of many issues for the parties, and also the leading party is only a couple of seats short of a majority.  Nonetheless, strong lobbying by individuals and organisations throughout the year, and at budget time, can push active travel up the agenda.

The previous minority SNP government, elected in 2007, shows the opportunities from a more representative Parliament rather than one-party rule.  In its draft 2008/9 budget the SNP scrapped the crucial Cycling, Walking, Safer Streets (CWSS) fund – the most basic form of cycling/walking investment, introduced in 2002.  But without an overall SNP majority, the Greens were able to force a rethink, and CWSS still remains a vital component of cycle funding.

We are, however, likely for some time to remain far from the ambition for investment at European levels, and for 10% of transport spending to go to active travel – whilst 10% is in the Green manifesto they will not have sufficient political power to force through a change at that level.

The SNP manifesto expresses ‘determination’ to achieve its ambition of 10% of all trips in Scotland to be by bike in 2020 – a great ambition, first announced in 2009, but unfortunately never backed up by an evidence-based, costed and funded strategy.  It is clear that this is now unachievable in a 4 year timescale, but Spokes will certainly do all it can to support and lobby for effective measures to achieve the 10% as soon as is possible.

There is also much more that a non-majority Parliament can achieve on wider sustainable transport issues – one immediate example being the SNP’s plan to cut Air Passenger Duty, a policy opposed by every other party [see our manifesto analysis].  If they all stick to their promises it will be impossible for this to go through in the way intended – leaving an unexpected windfall of around £125m a year in future Scottish Government budgets, some of which could in theory go to substantially increasing the £40m a year active travel budget.

Individual candidates

There were two major losses for cycling in the election – Spokes member Sarah Boyack (Labour) and Edinburgh Southern’s Jim Eadie (SNP).

Regardless of party, both did a huge amount to push the case for cycling investment in the last Parliament, as can be seen from their many references in many articles on our website – Sarah / Jim.

Equally or more important, both worked very hard within their own respective parties to persuade colleagues who were more sceptical of the case to grow cycle use.   Even though they are no longer MSPs, we hope they will continue their efforts.

Thank you, Jim and Sarah.

Our congratulations, however, to two other hugely pro-active supporters of cycling investment in the last Parliament who were re-elected, Spokes member Alison Johstone MSP (Green) and South of Scotland’s Claudia Beamish MSP (Labour).  We trust they will continue their efforts, including maintaining a healthy Cross Party Cycling Group [all groups have to be restarted after each election].   There is much that can be done by individual MSPs

New MSPs

The WalkCycleVote campaign obtained statements and promises from many individual candidates and you can now check what they said – and hold them to it!!

However – only time will tell which new MSPs have a really strong interest in encouraging cycle use.  For example, after the 2011 election two new Edinburgh SNP MSPs, Jim Eadie and Marco Biagi, expressed big support.  But as the months went by, Jim maintained and strengthened his active support within the Parliament, whilst Marco, although still supportive, saw it as much less of a priority compared to his other interests.

If an elected MSP is very supportive they will push their party to go further than their manifesto, and they will take other cycling initiatives such as on the Waverley ramp.  If most MSPs are uninterested, then there’s little chance of going beyond manifesto promises, as with the recent government budget.

What you can do

Edinburgh MSPs

Here’s a brief bio of some of the new Edinburgh MSPs from the Evening News.


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