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Draft Scottish Budget savages SNP manifesto

Despite a promise in the SNP manifesto to “increase the proportion of transport spending on … active and sustainable travel” the draft budget looks set to slash investment in cycling and walking – alongside a huge increase in trunk roads spending.

4 October note:  Since writing this article more info has come to light.   Whichever way you look at it, cycling investment is in for a drastic cut if the draft budget is not changed, and it could be even worse depending on the CWSS outcome.   For our latest understanding see the 4 October news posting which is based on our submission to the ICI and RACCE Scottish Parliament Committees which are scrutinising the budget.  The figures in that posting supercede those given below.

If the Scottish government does not amend its draft budget 2012-13 before the final version, then the SNP manifesto will have been completely bogus when it comes to active travel, walking and cycling.

The draft budget raises total transport spending (table 13.01) from £1804m in 11-12 to £1884m in 12-13.

Within this, motorway and trunk road spending rises by a staggering 15% from £558m to £655m.  Astonishingly, the  increase in trunk road spending (£97m) is five times bigger than the total existing annual investment in active travel.   A minor re-jig of trunk-road spending could thus double or treble total active travel investment!

Exact investment in cycling is impossible fully to disentangle but a reasonable guesstimate [see below] is that it will fall from some £20m in 11-12 to under £15m in 12-13.   Thus rather than increasing investment in cycling as a proportion of transport spending, as the SNP manifesto implies, it is being slashed from an already miserable 1.1% to an almost invisible 0.8%.

This move to boost motorway and trunk road use and investment at the expense of cycling and walking also makes a real mockery of the government’s supposed ‘new strategic priority’  - Transition to a Low Carbon Economy [Chapter 3 of the Spending Review].   John Swinney is completely disregarding the proposals in his government’s own Report on Policies and Proposals [RPP] to meet its statutory carbon targets – these proposals included substantial rises in active travel investment.

Under the draft budget allocations the government has zero hope of achieving its own RPP milestone that 10% of trips in Scotland will be by bike in 2010 – a target also included in the government’s own Cycling Action Plan for Scotland [CAPS].   To achieve such targets would require the levels of investment which the government last year proposed in its RPP.

Spokes urges everyone concerned about this appalling shift in priorities, and disregard of the SNP’s own manifesto,  to ask their MSPs to seek changes in the draft budget.   Contact your MSPs at www.writetothem.com.

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INITIAL ESTIMATE OF BUDGET IMPACT ON CYCLING INVESTMENT

The Sustainable and Active Travel budget line [table 13.07] is cut from £25.1m in 11-12 to £16.0m in 12-13.   Currently approximately 50% of this goes to active travel, the rest to low carbon motor transport   [The exact % is not known as it is decided as the year progresses].   On that 50% basis, cycling/walking investment would fall from £12.5m to £8m.  However, the budget small-print sneakily adds Park and Ride and Fastlink projects to this budget, meaning that £8m may well be an overestimate – so let us say £6m.

This cut will impact dreadfully on Sustrans and on Cycling Scotland, both of whom get the bulk of their funding (for work with councils and others across Scotland) from this budget line.   The impact of the Sustrans cut will be much worse than the raw figures suggest, as Sustrans asks councils and others to provide 50% match-funding, so every £1 cut in Sustrans funding is a £2 cut in cycling/walking investment.

The new Scottish Futures Fund allocates £6.5m for Warm Homes and Future Transport funds (let us assume 50% each) in 2012-13, the latter covering public transport, low carbon vehicles and active travel.  Perhaps active travel therefore will receive 1/3 of the transport fund, i.e. £1m.

The Cycling, Walking and Safer Streets Fund is allocated to councils on a population basis, and was £7.5m in 2011-12.  The draft budget leaves its future up in the air [table 16.03], saying it depends on discussions with COSLA, the result to be announced in December in the 2012-13 Local Government Finance Circular.   This is a critical active travel fund, without which many councils would invest zero in cycling – as comments from council cycling officers around the country to Spokes make very clear.   Let us optimistically assume that it will be retained, at its present level of £7.5m.

Therefore our best initial estimate for  total cycling investment in the 2012-13 draft budget is £6m+£1m+£7.5m=£14.5m (with a big level of uncertainty and the possibility of further downward movement if CWSS is changed or scrapped).  This compares to approximately £12.5m+£7.5m=£20m in the 2011-12 budget.

Note 1 – For the reasons above our figures can only be a best estimate – the budget documents do not contain enough detail to give a certain figure.   We could even be £2m-3m too low or £2m-£3m too high (or far worse if CWSS is scrapped).   However the overall picture of a significant cut in the proportion of the transport budget going to active travel is absolutely clear.

Note 2 – There are also minor contributions to cycling investment from other budget headings (such as the Climate Challenge Fund).   These  provide well under £1m cycling investment and have not changed much between 11-12 and 12-13, so make little difference to the overall picture above.   It is the allocation of funds within the overall transport budget which is the overwhelming issue.

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WHAT OTHER ORGANISATIONS SAY…

Transform Scotland commentary on the draft spending review   “The Government has reneged on their climate plans and has slashed investment in active travel.”    NB: The TS figures differ from ours since they consider the whole 3-year Spending Review period, whereas our figures are for the 2012-13 budget only.   But – whichever way you look at it, the picture is astonishingly bad!

WWF commentary on draft budget & spending review  “Increased road building spend has squeezed out cash for walking and cycling and risks locking us into high carbon travel.”

Stop Climate Chaos Scotland  “… the Government has chosen not to fund even its own plans to reduce emissions, instead focusing spending on a massive road-building programme …

Sustrans Scotland [doc 108k] “Scottish Government policies recommend that walking and cycling have a big part to play in reducing the environmental impact of transport and improving public health – Scotland has the unenviable reputation of one of the most obese populations in the world – but these are now being ignored.  No other country in Northern Europe is following a similar path – they match the rhetoric of their policies with real action on the ground.”

Cycling Scotland  “In times of recession cycling projects are the schemes that should be prioritised – they offer fantastic return on investment at a fraction of the cost of road and rail projects.

The Herald report 30.9.2011Budget cuts ‘set to hit exercise progress’”

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