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Who’s in the Driving Seat? Why sustainable transport needs local leadership

Published 04 May 2018 by Colin Howden

Transform Scotland have published a series of recommendations for improving the delivery of local, sustainable transport. The series of recommendations were set out by Transform Scotland director Colin Howden at the Society of Chief Officers in Transportation in Scotland (SCOTS) annual seminar being held in Pitlochry today.

Colin Howden said:

“Most transport is local, and it is imperative that local transport planning be reinvigorated if we are to make substantial progress in improving conditions for the most sustainable forms of transport such as walking, cycling and bus use.

“There is a good case for the devolution of both responsibilities and resources from the national to the local level. This is not only for reasons of local democratic accountability, but also for assisting the switch to sustainable transport — as it is at this local level that most sustainable transport journeys are made.

“There are ample funds available. While Local Authorities have suffered massive cuts to their budgets, and face even more severe cuts, the national transport budget enjoyed by Transport Scotland has increased by a third over the past decade. If the Scottish Ministers are confident that they can fund a £300m annual tax cut for the aviation industry then they should be challenged by Local Authorities as to while similar levels of funding cannot be released for local, sustainable transport.”

As part of the presentation, Transform Scotland made the following calls:

1. There is a need for a reinvigoration of transport planning at the local authority level – as it is at the local level that sustainable transport can flourish.

2. Local Authorities need to present a more compelling evidence base about their perceived lack of resources for delivering sustainable transport.

3. For Local Authorities to be entrusted with additional resources and responsibilities, they need to be significantly more transparent in their dealings with the public.

4. The City Deals may have merit, but the processes remain deeply non-transparent, and with no indication that climate- and equalities- proofing has been taken into account.

5. A decision needs to be taken on what form of regional land use and transport governance in Scotland is required, and, if it does need to be retained, a more consistent system put in place.

6. Existing national spending priorities have become skewed towards long-distance, unsustainable transport; short of a fundamental review of national spending priorities, it is at least incumbent on national government to empower Local Authorities to raise their own revenue locally.