September 2022

#SpokesMtg, Fri 23 Sept: Cycling & Transport Policy in the new Edinburgh Council

New Transport Convener Cllr Scott Arthur will speak and answer questions at our first in-person public meeting since the covid restrictions ended.

  • Where Augustine United Church 41 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EL
  • Date Friday 23 September
  • Time  Starts 7.30, Ends 9.30.  Doors open 6.45 for coffee, stalls and chat
  • Queries & Questions Queries, or questions for the speaker, can be emailed to
  • Climate Fringe Festival Our meeting is part of the Climate Fringe Festival

  • Latest 1: In case you cannot attend in person, the meeting will be live-streamed here [you can try it now]
  • Latest 2: Questions can be emailed in advance to spokes@, or tweeted with hashtag #SpokesMtgQns [NB: questions/ comment from people attending the meeting will generally have priority, for a lively discussion]
  • Latest 3: If tweeting generally about the meeting, use hashtag #SpokesMtg

Following the May Council elections, councillors unexpectedly voted in a minority Labour administration, replacing the previous SNP/Labour coalition, and the Labour group then chose Cllr Scott Arthur as new Transport Convener.

We’ve asked Cllr Arthur to speak to our public meeting about the transport policies of the new administration, with particular reference to cycling and active travel.

At the first full-council meeting Cllr Arthur stated that the objective of the administration is to implement the manifesto on which Labour was elected, whilst recognising that working with other parties is essential.

At the first Transport Committee, Cllr Arthur said that his top personal motivations as Convener are…

Our meeting gives you the opportunity to question Cllr Arthur on administration policies and his intentions as convener – and how realistic they are, given that the administration is a minority one. This is discussed in an addendum below.

After Cllr Arthur’s presentation, there will be a full opportunity for questions and discussion, hosted by Kirsty Lewin of Spokes Porty.

Please help publicise the meeting by passing on the link, liking on facebook and retweeting here.

Addendum – Early indications from the new Administration


Cllr Arthur has stated that the aim of the administration is to implement the manifesto on which Labour was elected, but recognising that working with other parties is essential. On active travel, their manifesto included…

  • Increase AT spending to 15% of the transport budget (which Cllr Arthur reaffirmed in his above speech)
  • Increase the footway maintenance budget by 20%
  • Increase the pedestrian crossing budget (which includes toucans) by 20%
  • Improve and extend the network of protected cycleroutes, filling current significant gaps
  • Developing LTNs, with local community involvement
  • Other points are in our manifestos comparative analysis, here and here.

In terms of active travel, this seems to imply largely a continuation and perhaps strengthening of active travel policies from the previous Council. Cllr Arthur’s statement (above) of his personal motivations as convener suggest the same. As yet there is less clarity about wider transport policies, though Cllr Arthur has emphasised the importance of bus.

Of course, the devil will be in the detail, and the administration will be judged on what is delivered. In particular, will delivery continue to be plagued by the delays with which we are so familiar? Given the climate crisis and the 2030 targets for cutting car-km and for net zero, rapid delivery of quality schemes must be a priority.

The Council has now boosted active travel staffing, and the government is supplying significant new cash, so two former causes of holdups are eased. The Scottich Government’s tortuous rules on Traffic Orders have also been modified somewhat, though more needs to be done. The remaining cause of delay was excessive consultation: multiple extensive pre-implementation consultations have wasted officer time, frustrated the public, increased costs and delayed schemes. Certainly consultation is essential, but it must be sensibly scheduled – and less abstract, with more emphasis on ‘try then modify’ and use of Experimental Traffic Orders, so schemes can be more easily modified if problems arise in practice.

Minority Council

The previous Council was an SNP/Labour coalition with an agreed programme, just one vote short of a majority, and with an expectation of Green support on active travel policies. Thus there was little incentive for administration councillors to work with other parties issue by issue, and it often felt, too, that other parties were acting as ‘opposition.’

However, the new council is very much a minority administration, with only 13 of the 63 seats! Thus, regardless of manifestos or motivations, pure councillor numbers mean that decisions often require the support of three of the five parties (or abstention by some).

The Transport Committee has 3 SNP members and 2 each from the other four parties. It is similar at full council meetings: the only two-party majority would be a joint Labour/SNP vote (32), which would just scrape a bare majority of the 63 councillors.

Thus the administration has to work with others, policy by policy, to get agreement. There can even be situations where three non-administration parties combine to make a decision on which the administration is reluctant – and this has already happened (example below).

Some people feared these numbers would lead either to paralysis or to mediocrity, as compared to a coalition with an agreed joint policy programme, as in the previous council. Fortunately, however, the signs so far are hopeful for cross-party co-operation rather than confrontation; and getting the best from all manifestos on an issue-by-issue basis. For example…

  • The first Transport Committee (1st September) was very constructive, with parties frequently accepting suggested improvements to their motions, and voting on a case-by-case basis rather than the traditional more rigid lineup of administration v. opposition.
  • A great example was the debate on ETRO Experimental Traffic Orders for the Spaces for People/ Travelling Safety main-road cycle lanes. The debate suggested that either the Labour or the Green motions might prevail – they were fairly similar, except that Labour would have delayed 2 of the 37 schemes for more consultation, whilst the Green motion took too little note of bus needs or linking to climate. The Greens, in agreement with Labour, then modified their motion to include bus and climate, and this ‘best of both worlds’ motion then won the final vote, defeating the unchanged Labour motion.
  • In another case, extending parking controls, SNP and Greens lined up with Labour, with LibDems and Conservatives losing out
  • An example of minority operation at the Full Council concerned the Workplace Parking Levy. Edinburgh Labour councillors clearly have mixed views about this and, probably for that reason, did not mention it, for or against, in their manifesto. However, at a full Council meeting, Greens, SNP and LibDems combined to progress Council WPL investigations, with the Labour administration having to accept that this is the decision of the Council.

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