August 2016

Quick chance for Brexit cash?

Update 16.11.16:  another holding reply from Scot Govt  [this one to Alison Johnstone MSP] despite this being “accelerated funding” and needing “early action”
Update 20.9.16:  holding reply from Scot Govt

Spokes has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pointing out that cycling infrastructure would be a highly effective use for some of her promised £100m support for the economy following the Brexit vote…

The First Minister has announced £100m capital investment ” to support and stimulate the economy in the wake of the EU referendum.”  The cash, which is actually underspending from last year rather than new money, is the first stage of a programme which will run into future years.

The Scottish Government will announce later which projects will be funded through the programme.  “Projects will be assessed for accelerated funding against a range of criteria including how quickly work can start, the number of jobs that will be supported or created, the likely impact on the supply chain and geographic spread.”

In our letter Spokes points out that cycling infrastructure meets all these criteria…

  • Work can start quickly – Sustrans has a bank of assessed projects submitted by Councils and others, with insufficient Community Links cash to fund them.
  • Number of jobs supported or created – there is convincing evidence [1,2] that more jobs are created and/or supported per £ invested through cycling infrastructure than through road projects. This also makes intuitive sense – small scale projects are likely to be more staff-intensive whereas large-scale construction project are likely to be more mechanised.
  • Impact on supply chain – small scale construction projects are more likely to use local suppliers of materials and equipment than large scale projects, where savings come from bulk buying – often from further afield and even from overseas. For example, one Community Links project contractor stated “All staff are either from Oban or Fort William and even the sub-contractors tend to be local, for example the fencing comes from a local supplier. So all workers are local to the area from the quarrying to the finished path.”
  • Geographical spread – a small number of large-scale projects inherently benefit only a small number of areas, whereas a large number of small-scale projects can be widely distributed. The Sustrans Community Links programme is a perfect example of the latter, with every local authority in Scotland already having benefited. For example see the map of 2016/7 projects.

We also point out that improved cycling infrastructure benefits other major government objectives and targets, notably on public health, climate change and air quality.

See our full letter here.

Don’t just read – please act!!

Please write to your MSPs.  Ask them to speak to the First Minister and to Keith Brown MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, and make the case for some of the Brexit cash to be used for cycling infrastructure.   Send us any useful replies.

Remember that less than 2% of the Scottish Government’s transport budget currently goes to active travel, despite widespread calls from distinguished bodies for 10% [1,2] – and in contrast to Edinburgh City which is allocating 9% of this year’s transport budget and will be up to 10% next year.

Remember too that due to the low levels of cycling investment, only one of the 5 excellent shortlisted bids to the Community Links Plus competition could be funded [1,2] – and even it could only be funded by reducing the pot of cash available to all 30 other Councils under the Community Links scheme.

Finally, although £100m is very small in infrastructure terms (e.g. the A9 and A96 upgrades are each costing £9000m) this is said to be just the start of a programme continuing into future years, so it is vital to get cycling investment embedded from the start.

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