We want transport expenditure to prioritise sustainable transport.
We need politicians to take the decisions that will deliver a healthy and decarbonised transport system.
Transport budgets should be focused on investing in active travel and public transport, and superior maintenance of our existing road and rail networks. These sustainable measures will provide a benefit for all of Scotland’s people, bring greater economic benefits, and support government objectives on health and climate change.
Unfortunately, recent Scottish Government decisions have been reinforcing car use and promoting more flying. Since 2011-12, roads have seen a 34% increase in spending while aviation, the most unsustainable mode, has seen a 70% increase in spending. According to the Government’s own analysis, only 5.7% of the transport budget will cut climate emissions, while only 1.3% of the budget will improve public health.
Fix It First!
Scottish Ministers should redirect their expenditure plans for roads to tackle the £2.25 billion road maintenance backlog. This would benefit all road users and have a greater impact in supporting the Scottish economy. It would also attract huge public support: our research has found that the vast majority of Scots want the Scottish Government to prioritise the repair of the existing road network over building new roads. When asked the question “Do you think the Scottish Government should give priority to fixing the existing road network before building new roads?”, 84% of respondents agreed, with only 7% disagreeing.
Invest in Active Travel
Walking and cycling, the healthiest and most sustainable modes of transport, need to have much higher priority if Scotland is serious about improving national public health levels and tackling obesity. Research by Spokes has found that one-third of Local Authorities invest none of their own transport capital in cycling. Local Authorities should follow the leadership example provided by The City of Edinburgh Council, who over recent years have committed at least 5% of their transport budgets to cycling, increasing 1% per year. To incentivise investment, the Scottish Government should prioritise its own cycle investment into match-funding those Local Authorities who are prepared to invest in active travel from within their own transport budgets.
Invest in Smarter Choices measures
This range of small-scale, low-cost interventions (e.g. school and workplace travel plans, car clubs, travel awareness campaigns) has been shown to be highly cost-effective in reducing traffic levels and greenhouse gas emissions. Local Authorities and Regional Transport Partnerships, with the active assistance of Transport Scotland, should continue work to establish car clubs and bike-sharing operations in every large town and city. Work should concentrate on areas with high population density which bring the greatest benefits in terms of reduced congestion and carbon savings, and around railway stations and other transport hubs where shared cars/bikes can be used to complete the last leg of a journey.
Invest in rail freight infrastructure
Greater priority needs to be given to public investment in route infrastructure and terminal facilities to enable more freight to be shifted from road haulage to rail and sea. These ways of moving goods are substantially more energy-efficient and climate-friendly than road haulage, and the two more sustainable modes are also much safer. But for rail freight to flourish, government needs to ensure that bridges and tunnels on more of Scotland’s rail routes can accommodate the modern generation of tall containers, and that track and signalling are upgraded to accommodate longer freight trains. Last but not least, local authorities should incorporate appropriate rail and sea freight strategies in their Development Plans and protect potential rail freight sites from inappropriate development.