February 2012
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Scottish Budget improved!

A significant chunk of the severe cuts planned to active travel in the government’s original draft budget were reversed in the final version, approved by Parliament this week…

At the start of the final budget debate, Finance Secretary John Swinney announced an additional £13m for active travel over 3 years.   We later discovered this will comprise £4m in 12/13, £5m 13/14 and £4m 14/15.

We understand that all or most of this additional funding will go to Sustrans for their work with councils and other partners across Scotland.   As a result of this, together with funding from other budget headings, Sustrans is expected to receive the following, a significant rise on this year’s reduced £5.5m…

  • 2012/13   £7.16M
  • 2013/14   £8.16M
  • 2014/15   £9.16M

Sustrans requires match-funding from its project partners, and thus much of the above money will effectively be doubled-up.   Spokes is urging councils to provide some or all of their match-funding from their own ‘internal’ transport funds, like Edinburgh is doing, rather than from their government CWSS [Cycling Walking Safer Streets] allocation.

Regrettably the government at the same time announced an additional £72m for road construction projects – despite the trunk roads and motorways budget line already having a £100m increase on last year.

Spokes is still awaiting further detail on a number of figures, but our initial impression is that the budget changes overall still mean a fall in the proportion of transport spending going to active travel – both in 2012/13 and as a total over the whole Spending Review period up to 2014/15 – despite the SNP manifesto promise of an increase.   We hope to be able to come up with a clear position before long.

Nonetheless the budget changes are hugely welcome, and Spokes thanks and congratulates all who contributed to the campaign, including…

  • The literally 100s of individuals (you?) who sent personal letters/emails to MSPs.   This is what above all brought results – without this, nothing below would have happened.
  • The MSPs of all parties who pressurised ministers as a result of the above.  We particularly thank local Edinburgh SNP MSPs Jim Eadie and Marco Biagi for major efforts – despite the fact that they belong to the party which was proposing the cuts.
  • The Labour, LibDem and Green parties at Holyrood who combined to send a joint letter to the Finance Secretary asking for budget changes on active travel.
  • The national organisations such as SCCS, Transform and WWF who took up the cause, notably organising the big St Andrews House demonstration.
  • Sustrans and Cycling Scotland who, despite depending on government funding, plucked up their courage to highlight the effects of the impending cuts.  The Sustrans budget submission was also particularly helpful in showing the widespread employment benefits of Sustrans investment in Scotland [See final bullet point here].
  • Last, but not least, the government, for listening – notably Transport Minister Keith Brown who took the situation seriously,  lobbied his senior colleagues effectively, and tells us he is still on the lookout for additional funding – for example if major capital projects slip behind schedule during the financial year.

Needless to say, Spokes will continue to campaign for proper funding levels.  Present totals still look likely to be down on last year, seem unlikely to meet the SNP manifesto commitment and are certainly too low to achieve the government’s target of 10% of trips by bike by 2020 – a target also embedded in its climate change and obesity strategies.

For further details on what is needed see the briefing we produced for our recent meeting with the Transport Minister.

 

 

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