‘Budget to tackle the climate emergency’ says Scottish Government, but does it go far enough?

The Scottish Budget 2020/21 includes a slight increase in funding for cycling and walking. This is good to see, but Jim Densham, Cycling UK’s campaigns and policy manager for Scotland, asks whether it is sufficient for a budget that aims to tackle the climate emergency

On Thursday the Public Finance Minister, Kate Forbes, introduced the Scottish Budget 2020/21 to Parliament. In it there are proposals to increase funding for active travel by £5.5m, which takes the total budget to £85m.

It’s encouraging to see a modest increase in the budget for cycling and walking, but the Scottish Government had said this would be the budget to tackle the climate emergency. To do that it has to enable more people to walk and cycle, reducing car dependency and transport-related carbon emissions.

That requires a much larger shift in funding. £85m for active travel pales in comparison to the hundreds of millions for motorways and trunk roads, which will simply maintain the status quo rather than delivering the changes we need to see.

I feel the Scottish Government must go further, by boosting the amount of money it gives to Scotland’s 32 Local Authorities to build dedicated cycling infrastructure. We propose that this should be done by putting more money into the Cycling, Walking and Safer Routes fund, which helps Local Authorities pay for infrastructure, boosted to at least £20m in 2020/21.

With Local Authority budgets under pressure there is a strong case for Transport Scotland providing them with a larger share of funding to increase the numbers of people walking and cycling in their areas. This will send a clear message to Local Authorities that the Scottish Government is investing in active travel infrastructure right across the nation and is increasing their ability to bid for further active travel project funding.

Announcing the Scottish Budget, Public Finance Minister Kate Forbes said: “Our wellbeing approach to the Budget prioritises actions that have the greatest impact on improving lives across Scotland now, and creating the conditions that are required to ensure wellbeing for future generations.”

Improving air quality, reducing congestion and creating healthier, safer communities – if we want to improve wellbeing for future generations, it’s clear that making it easier for people to cycle and walk has a crucial role to play.

The vision of the new Transport Strategy is commendable, but lacks the detail on how it will be achieved

The Budget announcement was made the day after Transport Minister Michael Matheson had published the new National Transport Strategy (NTS2). The vision of the new Transport Strategy is commendable, but lacks the detail on how it will be achieved.

It was a little disappointing to see the final strategy largely unchanged and lacking in solid policies or action, especially after more than 600 Cycling UK members took the time to use our online tool to have their say on what improvements they wanted for cycling in the strategy. We will be pushing Government to include all those ideas in the promised delivery plan.

We urgently need concrete details on how the Scottish Government will get people out of cars and instead cycling, walking and using public transport. The climate emergency will not wait.