What the local election results mean for cycling in Scotland

Cyclists in Glasgow
Jim Densham's picture

What the local election results mean for cycling in Scotland

The local elections are over, and councillors are getting to grips with local issues across Scotland. Jim Densham, Cycling UK's campaigns and policy manager in Scotland shares his thoughts on how the results take us further in securing more action for cycling from councils

I’ve worked on a fair few elections, either as part of various jobs or campaigning for a local candidate – I was once an official election agent!

Elections are always a roller-coaster of effort and emotion as the slow build up of planning leads to a sudden launch into high-speed activity and momentum through the inevitable ups and downs.

I usually get to the end of the election count feeling relieved to be getting off but happy about having been along for the ride.

We started drafting our local election manifesto last year, way before its launch in February, so it has been a long process, all aimed at telling candidates and parties what they need to do to enable more people to cycle more often.

This year, however, public and media interest in the election took a while to warm up – it wasn’t until April that campaigning really took off. 

Cycling Revolutions

Our manifesto was well received and gathered over 1000 signatures of support from our members and supporters – thank you to all who signed our petition.

The manifesto set out 10 things that we believe all councils must deliver to make cycling revolutions happen across Scotland.

Party manifestos were published in April, and many made positive commitments for cycling – see our manifesto comparison guide.

The Greens and the SNP were particularly strong on promises for cycling, active travel and better neighbourhoods.

In manifestos, active travel is usually relegated to the end of transport sections, almost as an afterthought but notably, in its 2022 manifesto the SNP reversed this and featured cycling at the top.

With the SNP coming out on top in Scotland, with the most councillor seats, and likely to be in power in many councils, this can only be a good sign for cycling and active travel delivery.

Time to Deliver

In addition to ‘Cycling Revolutions’ our other theme during the election was ‘Time To Deliver’.

Polling by YouGov which we commissioned ahead of the election showed that 61% of people in Scotland support redesigning streets to make them safer for walking and cycling, and a similar percentage support the building of more cycle lanes physically separated from traffic.

We told politicians that it's time to deliver better cycling infrastructure in our local communities, because it's popular and because of the many benefits it provides.

The evidence for these benefits was brought together and published in our new report Getting There With Cycling, which we believe will help politicians make decisions to invest in cycle lanes and safer streets. 

What do the results mean for cycling?

The SNP, Scottish Labour, Scottish Lib Dems and the Scottish Greens each added between 16 and 22 council seats in the election.

Arguably the Greens and Lib Dems did the best as they started from a lower level – the Greens almost doubling their tally.

It was also a good result for the SNP and Labour who won enough seats to take control of Dundee and West Dunbartonshire councils, respectively.

By contrast the Scottish Conservatives came away from the election losing 63 councillors across Scotland.

85 of the 173 candidates who had signed up to show their support for cycling ahead of the election were elected – thanks to everyone who used our e-action to contact their candidates.

Use the map below to  find out if your local councillor declared their support for cycling.

 

We will aim to build a relationship with these councillors and help them to speak up for cycling, walking and wheeling.

It’s great to see these cycle-supporting councillors spread widely across Scotland, covering 23 of 32 Scottish councils.

We will also put them in touch with local campaign groups and people in their council areas so they understand the local issues and existing campaign work.

Hopefully many of the councillors who supported cycling will be in positions of power on their council and able to take decisions which can kick start cycling revolutions – we wait to see which coalitions form and who takes a leadership role.

I'm quietly confident that we have laid the groundwork for cycling revolutions in Scotland. 

We have solid manifesto commitments from parties in power and councillors in place across the majority of the nation who can champion cycling and better neighbourhoods. 

Finally, we have provided the evidence to councils that investment they make on high-quality cycling infrastructure is both good value for money and popular with the electorate. 

What you can do now

Even though the election is over the long-term work starts here to influence more action for cycling at the local level.

We need your help to keep telling your councillors why cycling is important to you and why you want to see change happen where you live.

Here are a few things you can do now:

 

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