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Transform Scotland May Newsletter — Director’s Note

Published 07 May 2020 by Transform Scotland

 

Wiesbaden, Germany – April 29, 2020: A road worker applies bus and bicycle lane pictograms on the street in the city centre of Wiesbaden

We’ve been hard at work (from home, of course) communicating the changes needed post-lockdown. While there are definitely prospects for a more sustainable future, many of our members are understandably concerned about the financial sustainability of public transport services, and to conditions for walkers and cyclists should the lifting of the lockdown lead to increased car use. So it’s imperative that we fight for the coronavirus recovery to be both zero-carbon and socially-just.

We have concentrated on communicating a few clear messages. Firstly, the need to lock-in the renewed interest in walking & cycling, and the lower levels of pollution. Secondly, that a major programme to rebuild public transport patronage will be required. And, perhaps most importantly, that all economic stimulus packages incentivise a ‘Green Recovery’.

It was therefore heartening to hear Michael Matheson, the Scottish transport minister, in his parliamentary ministerial statement on 28 April, provide financial support for on-street physical distancing measures and also to make clear commitment towards the rebuilding of public transport services. For her part, Roseanna Cunningham, the environment minister, in her evidence to the parliament’s environment committee the following day, emphasised that the economic recovery must indeed be a green recovery consistent with tackling the Climate Emergency. We will be writing to the First Minister later this week with our own set of priorities for government action.

It was great to see Edinburgh and Glasgow councils take action within days of the transport minister’s funding announcement to put in place initial ‘Spaces for People’ road reallocations. But not everyone has got this message: we’ve also seen Aberdeen City Council propose the acceleration of inner-city road-building as an economic stimulus measure (and this in a city that has already seen over a billion pounds of Scottish funds lavished on it in recent years for new road schemes). And for every organisation promoting a green, just recovery, there will be the same vested interests out there working up their own plans to argue for a return to the same dirty, unjust ‘normal’ that we had in place beforehand.

To move to the ‘new normal’, it’s essential that all local and national plans prioritise sustainable transport. In recent weeks, we’ve submitted our responses to Edinburgh’s City Mobility Plan proposals, the Scottish Government’s call for ideas on the new National Planning Framework (NPF4), and Transport Scotland’s consultation on its Strategic Transport Projects Review’ (STPR2). While all of these processes have merit, it remains to be seen whether they will deliver change at the rapidity that is required to tackle the Climate Emergency, challenges that have been re-doubled by the need to deliver a green recovery to the corona crisis.

We’ll be discussing these issues and more in a series of videoconferences that we’ll be holding over the next few months. I hope that members can join us next week, Thursday 14 May, for the first in this series.

With best wishes,

Colin Howden
Director, Transform Scotland