Scotland’s draft Transport Strategy needs tastier cheese!

How is reading a government strategy like eating a cheese sandwich? Answer: you don’t really look forward to it, they are often a bit dry and boring, and afterwards you don’t remember it being very special! Jim Densham, Cycling UK's Campaigns and Policy Manager for Scotland, is someone who should know.

I’ve just read Scotland’s draft National Transport Strategy (NTS2) after it was published last week. If this was a cheese sandwich, my reaction is that I was hoping for some tastier cheese. It was like a sandwich with very wholesome bread with pickle and salad, but there just wasn’t enough tangy strong cheddar!

For any sandwich, the filling is all-important; for a strategy, the policies and actions are key. I finished reading the draft strategy and came away feeling like the 14 policies and 38 ‘enablers’ (mechanisms to deliver the policies) lacked detail and explanation.

What does it mean when it says Government will "Optimise accessibility and connectivity within business-business and business-consumer markets by all modes of transport"? What will it mean for me and you? How will these policies and ‘enablers’ individually and in combination lead to fulfilling the strategy’s outcomes, priorities and vision?

If this was a cheese sandwich, my reaction is that I was hoping for some tastier cheese...I came away feeling like the policies and ‘enablers’  lacked detail and explanation.

These questions are left hanging because there really is only a simple list of positive statements. This is important not just for accountability but because the Government says that the NTS2 will set the scene and direction for things like future investment decisions in transport infrastructure and implementation of the Transport Bill. Meaning, many future decisions about how our transport system is developed and improved will be guided by these policies and enablers.

Having said that, the bread and condiments in the NTS2 sandwich are great. These include, a vision for "sustainable, inclusive and accessible transport….", clear and evidence-based explanations of the many challenges, and an outline of the changing needs for transport and how governance of the system must change.

Government also makes some bold promises, such as, "Nobody in Scotland will be disadvantaged by our transport system", "People’s travel choices will not have significant adverse impacts on the long-term future of our planet and the wellbeing of future generations", and "we will not be building infrastructure to support forecast demand – we will reduce the need to travel by unsustainable modes…"

The draft NTS2 is open for consultation and Government is seeking your views before 23 October. Have your say. At Cycling UK, our team in Scotland will responding – leaving out references to cheese – so make sure to follow us on Twitter or Facebook for the latest updates on our views on the NTS2, with more detailed commentary due in the coming weeks.

The NTS2 was launched in Perth by Transport Minister Michael Matheson, and at the same event he announced which projects had won funding from the Places for Everyone scheme run by Sustrans Scotland. Five projects in Glasgow (x2), Edinburgh, Arbroath and Perth will share in £60m of funds.

We welcomed the announcement but called on the Minister to urgently further develop and take forward the five other schemes which were not selected for funding this time, so that more communities can benefit.

With more schemes like this in the planning pipeline there is also a need for projects to be part of a wider masterplan to enable the creation of joined up active travel networks. It was encouraging, however, that the Minister chose to launch the draft NTS2 at an active travel event. Hopefully it shows his priorities for the future.