November 2017
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Scottish Parliament debates🚲and🚶‍♀️

Spokes was referenced by no fewer than five MSPs during the debate!   An interesting set of amendments was discussed, but there were no new announcements and one important funding issue was forgotten …

The October 31st debate, on a government motion, was introduced by Transport Minister Humza Yousaf and closed by Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell – to emphasise the importance of cross-portfolio working.

The transcript of the debate is here, Parliament TV is here and there is a helpful report by Bike Biz here, so this article is picking up on selected points of interest rather than being a detailed report.

The government’s motion rightly welcomed its impressive doubling of active travel investment from £40m to £80m a year, and the forthcoming appointment of an ‘Active Nation Commissioner.’   However that news is now nearly 2 months old, so we had hoped for an announcement on how the new cash would be allocated – but that is apparently still being discussed.

Essentially there was little new in the debate, but it was a forum at which many current issues, concerns and opportunities were raised, listened to by Ministers and cemented into the Parliamentary record.

Spokes had prepared a detailed briefing document, which we circulated to MSPs on the Cross Party Cycling/Walking/Buses group, Spokes member MSPs, and a few other MSPs who had worked on cycling issues. It was also circulated to Spokes members, several of whom then contacted their MSPs asking them to take part, given that most debates are sparsely attended.  Most of the issues in our document were touched on in the debate, but one vital matter not discussed was the future of the CWSS fund – see below.

AMENDMENTS

The motion and amendments are here [click the link at bottom right of the page].

The Labour amendment on transport poverty was agreed.

The LibDem amendment on child cycle training was agreed.

The Conservative amendment criticising inadequate progress to the target of 10% of trips being by bike in 2020 was supported by Labour, Greens and Lib Dems, but with more SNP MSPs present at voting time it was defeated, by 58-55.

The Green amendment also mentioned the 2020 target but then asked for 10% of the transport budget to be allocated to walking and cycling by the end of this Parliament [Scotsman article].  The amendment was defeated, with only the Green MSPs voting in favour.

The final amended and approved motion stated…

  • That the Parliament recognises the importance of walking and cycling;
  • welcomes the 100% increase in funding for active travel from £40 million to £80 million from 2018-19 and the appointment of an Active Nation Commissioner in early 2018;
  • notes the work across parties, communities and policy portfolios to make Scotland a healthier and more active nation;
  • further notes with concern research by Sustrans Scotland, which found that 1.1 million people in Scotland occupy datazones where there is a high risk of transport poverty;
  • calls on the Scottish Government to set out how the increased active travel funding will specifically be used to reduce transport poverty;
  • further notes that less than 2% of children cycle to school;
  • considers that equipping people with the skills, knowledge and confidence to cycle from an early age is essential to encouraging them to continue cycling as they get older, and believes that every schoolchild should have the opportunity to benefit from cycle training.
SPOKES IN THE DEBATE

Humza Yousaf MSP [SNP]: Provision for users of non-motorised vehicles, including cyclists, at Sheriffhall is currently being developed, and we are in dialogue with a number of organisations such as Spokes and Sustrans.  [background here]

John Finnie MSP [Green]: Spend on cycling is also a complex issue. Indeed, the annual survey that Spokes undertook was discontinued in 2015, due to the increasing complexity of compiling it.  [background here]

Claudia Beamish MSP [Lab]: The Spokes event that is to be held jointly with Midlothian Council, East Lothian Council, West Lothian Council and City of Edinburgh Council representatives on 9 November is a good example of that approach. I have with me the flyer to give that a plug.  [background here]

Liam Kerr MSP [Con]: Following my debate and a great deal of pressure from various groups such as Spokes, Transport Scotland recently reached an agreement with ScotRail to increase the number of spaces that are available at intermediate stations from two to four. Along with the six spaces in the power cars, that will be 10 spaces in all, which is a long way short of “at least 20”.  [re HST trains – background here]

Spokes says in its latest newsletter that, if the reports of the extra carriage are true, “then all concerned, and especially Minister Humza Yousaf, will be heroes!”  [re Highlands rural trains – see page 8 here]

Alison Johnstone MSP [Green]:  I am sure that members will wish to join me in congratulating Spokes, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. It is the Lothian cycle campaign, but it has been involved in bringing many policy issues to the Parliament. It has led the way on many issues, such as the ability of people who live in tenements to store their bike outside and the building of a strategic network of major motor-traffic-free cycle routes, for which there is a clear need. [more on our 40th soon, but meantime check hashtag #Spokes40]

CWSS FUTURE

As mentioned above, Spokes is very concerned that the Cycling, Walking, Safer Streets fund [CWSS] is not abolished as part of a ‘quid pro quo’ for the new investment.  CWSS money is allocated to every Council in Scotland, on a per-capita basis, and is ring-fenced for CWSS purposes only.  The SNP government when first elected (without an overall majority) tried to scrap CWSS, which has operated since year 2003, and was only prevented thanks to a deal with the Green Party to get the budget passed.

Without CWSS many Councils, especially smaller ones, would have invested zero in cycling and, sadly, at this time of very tight budgets, the same would be likely today.  Thanks to CWSS, however, every Council has made at least some attempt and has developed policies and at least some familiarity with cycling development.

Unfortunately CWSS was not raised in the Parliamentary debate.   However, in response to a Spokes question at the Cycling Scotland annual conference on the same morning, Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said he could not yet give an answer but would write to Spokes.

WHAT YOU CAN DO
  • Keep up contacts with your MSPs when there are cycling-related issues that concern you.  In addition to raising your specific concern, this also helps create the background where Parliament understands and is supportive of the need for cycling investment and sustainable transport policies in general.  Email your MSPs or, even better, visit them at their surgery for a chat.  Find them at www.writetothem.com.
  • Retweet our tweet about this article.

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