Around 350 people turned up for the budget protest today – an inspiring gathering of highly motivated citizens…
[see end of article for Jan 13 update]
Although the government initially refused to attend, by yesterday it was clear that turnout would be very high, reflecting the huge level of concern – so Transport Minister Keith Brown MSP decided to come, speak and receive the protest letter…
The Minister’s message was that cuts were inevitable given the cuts imposed on Scotland by the UK government. This did not impress the audience, or the other speaker, SCCS convener Tom Ballantine, given that regardless of any UK cuts the Scottish government has found the money to increase trunk road spending by £100m. Yet only £10m would be needed to keep cycle/walk funding at the same level as in 2010/11, or just £6m to keep it at the same level as 2011/12’s already-cut level of investment [for details, see Spokes budget update - pdf 118k].
The most positive note in the Minister’s speech was a brief and rather obscure (but welcome) technical point – that he is trying to persuade other SNP Ministers to allocate some money from ‘consequentials’ to boost active travel funding. Consequentials are extra sums which Scotland gets from the UK government from time to time, not known in advance, and so not in the current budget. Any such active travel funding boost would be highly welcome, and shows the need to keep up pressure throughout the year on the SNP and on its manifesto promise. However odds and ends such as the consequentials, arriving part-way through the financial year in which they have to be spent, are far less satisfactory than active travel being given proper consideration in the budget document (which also sets the pattern of spending for future years).
Overall, the huge audience looked pretty sceptical at the Minister laying the blame for Scottish active travel cuts on the UK government…
The almost-final version of the budget will be published some time before 20th January, followed by a debate in Parliament, with the chance for further amendments before a final vote expected in early to mid February.
The Spokes protest handout [pdf 774k], of which 300 copies were distributed at the event, gives more detail about what is happening and urges you to lobby your MSPs before it’s too late.
Spokes thanks Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and Transform Scotland for organising this fantastic event, in which Spokes was delighted to participate. Thanks also to you if you turned up and/or if you’re contacting your MSPs.
For more pictures of the event see…
http://www.flickr.com/photos/stopclimatechaos/sets/72157628824301203 [by Colin Hattersley]
https://t.co/Frh2UCGw [by Michael Naysmith]
UPDATE 13 JAN
We were delighted to see several prominent politicians coming along in the crowd [tell us if we've missed anyone] …
Cllr Gordon Mackenzie [LibDem, Edinburgh Council] – Convenor of Transport Committee and the impetus behind Edinburgh Council’s Active Travel Action Plan and this year’s big 2 projects – Quality Bike Corridor (KB to city centre) and Leith-Portobello link.
Alison Johnstone MSP [Green, Lothians] – who said she is about to join Spokes
Elaine Murray MSP [Labour, Dumfriesshire] – Shadow Minister for Transport and Housing
Claudia Beamish MSP [Labour, South of Scotland] – activist in Labour’s green pressure group, SERA
Cllr Steve Burgess [Green, Edinburgh Council] – who has helped us within the council on several occasions
There’s been some excellent media and other coverage … here are some of the best …
BBC Scotland video – David Miller reports
STV local – Alastair Tibbitt reports
Changeworks – innovative charity working on energy, environment and transport
Transform Scotland – includes links to many other media reports
TS Action Alert …
If you’ve not yet contacted your MSPs, or not all of them it’s still vital (you have one constituency MSP plus 6 or 7 regional MSPs). Use www.writetothem.com or use the Transform Scotland Action Alert [over 200 of these have been sent already - keep up the pressure!]