April 2022

Council election 2022 – Edinburgh manifestos analysis

With the main party manifestos for Edinburgh’s May 5th Council elections now published, Spokes has assessed their support for cycling, and active travel more widely, as everyday transport…

Our conclusion…

  • Tops – Green
  • Good – Labour & SNP
  • Medium – LibDem
  • Disappointing – Conservative


Do remember, however, that in addition to considering party manifestos, it is worth checking out the individual candidates in your ward – and then use the opportunities provided by the STV voting system to make your final decisions. This is discussed further in our Hustings Report – see the section called Deciding Your Vote.

Finally, we do not advise you who to vote for – you will doubtless have a range of issues to consider in addition to cycling, active travel and wider transport.

Lothians Councils manifestos

In smaller Councils it is common for parties not to issue manifestos. Those Lothians manifestos we know of are listed in our main elections article but, as there are so few, we have not done any analysis.

Edinburgh manifestos: one-line summaries

The Green manifesto comes out best for cycling and active travel (AT).

Labour and SNP are also in a good position, although with different emphases. Labour comes out particularly well in the AT funding categories, whilst SNP has welcome new policies on commuter charging (discussed further below).

LibDems have some good promises, but say nothing on cash or connected networks, and they hint at removing some Spaces for People schemes.

Apart from bike hire enthusiasm, the Conservative manifesto largely disappoints. In particular, most Spaces for People schemes would go.

The manifestos vary greatly in length, and generally we have presumed that where a policy is not mentioned, and where that policy resonates with the themes of a manifesto, then existing policies would probably continue. See Note 3 to the table below.

Tackling growing car commuting

Labour and SNP manifestos recognise the growing problems of congestion and pollution resulting from increasing car commuting – much of it from surrounding council areas – but aim to tackle it in different ways. SNP would introduce a peak-period charge for entering Edinburgh by car (so Edinburgh voters would be exempt) and a workplace parking levy for large employers, whilst Labour’s main solution is increased parking restrictions, and deals with surrounding Councils – Edinburgh Labour does not take a position on charging, so might or might not support a particular scheme.

Greens are very strong on both charging and parking restrictions. LibDems are willing to consider a workplace parking levy. Worryingly, the main Conservative approach to traffic growth and congestion appears to be increasing the available road space.

There is evidence from elsewhere that both charging and parking restrictions have significant positive effects, although charging is likely to be the most effective of the two. It also appears that a combination of methods, including both charging and parking restriction, is highly desirable. Methods adopted in other cities in the UK and wider Europe, and their effectiveness, are reported here.

Edinburgh manifestos comparisons table

The comparison table (and footnotes) below are also available as a pdf here.

Key to table: each entry begins with one of the following codes…

N not in manifesto; e.g. the party may be keeping options open, or continue existing policy, or uninterested

++ excellent

+ good e.g. topic mentioned positively but not much detail

= mixed/unclear


Obviously some of the individual codings are arguable, but we think the overall position above is pretty clear

Cycling % of transport budget [this is complex; see note 1 below]— scrap the 10% cycling allocation++ at least 10% for cycling [1]++ 15% for active travel [1]N+ Capital sum instead of % [1]
Onroad safe/protected routes & network= [4]++++N [5]++
Increased cash for road/ path/ footway repair+ amounts not specified+++ 20% more for footway maintenance+ “millions of £ extra” but how much not stated+
Cash for ped crossing & footway enhancementsN+++ 20% more for ped crossings++
Cycle hire scheme+++++ [2]+ [2]++
Onstreet secure storageN++N [3]N [3]+
Traffic reduction – charging– oppose Workplace Parking Levy++ Congestion charge and Workplace Parking LevyN+ Consult on Workplace Parking Levy++ Commuter charge and Workplace Parking Levy
Traffic reduction – parking restrictions– oppose more parking restrictions++ The most comprehensive manifesto on this+ Reduced commuter parking opportunities=+
Speed limit reductionsNN [3]N [3]N[3]N [3]
School safer routes/ streets+++N [3]++++
2030 Net Zero [not just transport]Postpone 2030 to unspecified date++ The most comprehensive manifesto on this++++++
Air pollutionScrap LEZ or just Princes St+++++ widen the LEZ+
LTNs, 20-min nbds, etcN+++++++
Other relevant major promises— Remove most Spaces for People schemes+ Lobby ScotGov for full non-residential parking levy powers+ Seek through-ticketing for bus, tram, rail & bike-hire
+ Improve last-mile delivery, incl cargobikes
Notes to the table

[1] Current Council policy is to allocate 10% of the transport budget (capital and revenue) to cycling, a policy unique in the UK as far as we know. This can then be used to attract substantial match-funding, notably government cash via Sustrans. Whilst much of this benefits walking too, separate cash is generally used to enhance the existing extensive pedestrian footway network, e.g. new pedestrian crossings.

This year’s manifestos are very varied on cycle and AT cash. Greens continue the above policy; Labour has upped the 10% to 15% but made it officially ‘active travel (AT)’, i.e. cycling, wheeling, walking; LibDems do not mention cycling cash amounts at all and Conservatives promise to abolish the 10% cycling percentage. The SNP is no longer committing to a % but promises £118m AT capital investment over the next 5 years – this presumably is the Council’s already agreed £118m active travel investment programme (ATINP), of which just £20m is the Council’s own transport capital funding – probably somewhat less than the Greens’ 10% cycling commitment or Labour’s 15% Active Travel, and is a commitment on transport capital only, not also transport revenue (e.g. gritting, maintenance, etc).

[2] Restore bike hire scheme if sponsorship found / if financially viable

[3] Not mentioned in manifesto so we expect existing policies will continue where they chime with the spirit of the manifesto, e.g. continuing rollout of more onstreet storage; continuing existing Council speed limit reduction plans, etc

[4] Conservatives argue for high quality cycle schemes, but there is no commitment to funding levels. They promise to work on the backlog of non Spaces for People schemes, but avoiding schemes which “clog up roads, reduce access or pander to minority lobby groups.” Most Spaces for People schemes will be removed.

[5] LibDems do not specifically mention main road cycle infrastructure, but want “high quality” projects “sensitive to local concerns”. However, no funding level is given. They will set up “full consultation” on the “most controversial” Spaces for People schemes – presumably with a view to amendment or removal.

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