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Scottish Government urged to spend more on public transport and less on cycling

Strathclyde Partnership for Transport councillors claim “sense of balance” lost as country spends record levels on active travel

The Scottish Government has been urged by a group of councillors to spend more on public transport and less on schemes aimed at encouraging active travel, such as cycling, with the country currently committing levels of funding never before seen in the UK to get more people walking, wheeling, and riding bikes.

Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), the regional transport partnership for Glasgow and surrounding areas, believes that the government’s focus on cycling and walking comes at the expense of investment in public transport, reports The Glasgow Times.

In a letter addressed to active travel minister, the Scottish Green Party’s Patrick Harvie, a cross-party trio of councillors who sit on the body say that “a sense of balance” has been lost and that current policies work against those who are less mobile.

SNP councillor and SPT chair Stephen Dorman signed the letter, which was co-signed by vice-chairs Alan Moir from Labour and the Conservative councillor David Wilson.

“My political partners and I, at SPT, are concerned that the current emphasis on active travel is actively precluding working with all modes of public transport,” Dornan wrote.

“SPT is, of course, supportive of all active travel modes but we appear to have lost a sense of balance.

“Active travel must integrate and work with public transport and there must be accessible travel options for those who cannot [undertake] active travel.

“We should not forget [that] not everyone is able to cycle or walk.”

In response, Transport Scotland, the executive agency which manages transport projects, ScotRail and all motorways and major A-class roads in the country, insisted that the government is investing adequately in public transport.

“The Scottish Government is committed to sustainable travel, which is why we invest over £2 billion annually to support public transport,” a Transport Scotland spokesperson insisted.

“We agree that active travel and public transport should be well integrated to serve the needs of communities and cross-sector work, such as the Sustainable Travel to Stations strategy, makes a vital contribution to delivering this.”

The Scottish Government is run by the SNP and Scottish Green Party under a cooperation and confidence and supply agreement signed in 2021 and known as the Bute House Agreement.

The agreement provides that at least £320 million or 10 per cent of the total transport budget in Scotland will be allocated to active travel by 2024-25.

For 2023-24, £190 million has been committed to active travel in the country, equivalent to around £38 million per capita – compared to just £1 per head in England outside London after the active travel budget was slashed by Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt earlier this year.

> England’s active travel spend 5,000 per cent less than Scotland’s after budget slash

“We are also committed to continuing to build on our recent record investment in active travel, after decades when walking, wheeling and cycling received relatively little funding despite clear evidence that people wanted to do more,” the Transport Scotland spokesperson continued.

“That’s why we support ambitious projects across Scotland designed to improve our public spaces and access to the public transport network, for example by creating safe routes to schools, segregated cycling lanes and improved pathways.”

The spokesperson also defended the agency’s record in helping those who are less mobile, saying: “Scotland’s Accessible Travel Framework was co-produced with disabled people and is focused on improving the overall journey experience for disabled people by removing the barriers which prevent them travelling.

“All of our actions and investment are underpinned by the Sustainable Travel Hierarchy and Sustainable Investment Hierarchy, which prioritise walking, wheeling and cycling and shared transport options over single car use,” they added.

Glasgow, which earlier this year hosted the first ever multi-disciplinary UCI World Cycling Championships, is currently building cycle lanes and making safety improvements at key junctions under its 2022-31 Active Travel Strategy (ATS).

According to Glasgow City Council, the ATS “is a recognition of the current focus on the climate emergency and the important contribution that all forms of active and sustainable travel can make towards achieving our goal of net zero carbon by 2030, as well as delivering on other outcomes for the city around health and wellbeing and an inclusive and equitable economy and society.

“The ATS aims to deliver significant modal shift across the city over the next ten years, through delivering on its vision that: “walking, wheeling and cycling in Glasgow will be the first and natural choice for everyday journeys, for people of all ages and ability, to travel locally to schools, to shops, to work, or to the city centre.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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mattw | 5 months ago
1 like

Has Vincent Stops moved to North Britain?

Safety | 5 months ago

After my previous attempts at emailing Scottish Green Co leader Lorna Slater I won't be holding my breath on them doing anything positive for active travel. Or anything now that I think about it.
I genuinely believe they should be taken to court for fraud for standing on the green ticket. As far as I can see they've done absolutely nothing for the environment since being in government.

chrisonabike replied to Safety | 5 months ago
1 like

Partly agree - but that's to be expected being (very much) the minor party in power.  However what they did get (as an initial agreement) was a sensible share of the transport budget for active travel.  That's not nothing - particularly when you look at how much England is splashing on this...

Bute House agreements: "increase investment in active travel and public transport, including a Fair Fares review to provide a realistic and affordable alternative to car use" (see details below).

I'd agree that the actual delivery of a lot of this has not happened e.g. on 20mph limits the "everywhere" part of that got shut down by the committee advising the SNP.  Police camera reporting portal ha ha ha.

Some of the details of the shared policy:

  • align transport policy with our climate targets and the goal of reducing car/km by 20% by 2030. Reducing the distance travelled by private car and the number of vehicles on the roads will improve air quality, the wellbeing of our communities and reduce accidents, and is an important part of our approach to achieving Scotland’s ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets
  • increase the proportion of Transport Scotland’s budget spent on Active Travel initiatives so that by 2024-25 at least £320m or 10% of the total transport budget will be allocated to active travel
  • local authorities will be encouraged to deliver more Safe to School initiatives, with the aim of ensuring every child who lives within two miles of school is able to walk or wheel safely
  • all appropriate roads in built up areas will have a safer speed limit of 20 mph by 2025. A task group will be formed to plan the most effective route for implementation
  • Transport Scotland will work with Police Scotland to develop a one year pilot project to develop an online reporting system enabling anyone to upload camera footage of dangerous driving
Rendel Harris | 5 months ago

Ah, the old biscuit analogy again, roads have ten biscuits and active travel has one biscuit, quick take away half of active travel's biscuit, that's what depriving us of our share for public transport!

ktache | 5 months ago

I now understand the bike rack!

mattw replied to ktache | 5 months ago

It'a an artwork paid for out of the cycle budget.

Try locking a cycle to all of the various bent bits of pipe.

chrisonabike replied to mattw | 5 months ago
1 like

They do look very much like puzzles you find in Chrismas crackers...

Still better than the Tram ones which have negligable security.  Fair complaint if that did indeed come from the cycling budget and not the overall funds for building the place.  If no-one uses it - and I can't recall seeing anyone parked there but then I'm never there during their "working day".

Challenge accepted though, whenever I'm by there I will give them a go.

OnYerBike replied to chrisonabike | 5 months ago

There are now some normal Sheffield stands right next to these "arty" stands, although they are a more recent addition (presumably people were complaining!)

momove | 5 months ago


BigSigh | 5 months ago

Councillor Alan Moir: as one of my local councillors, I'm still waiting for a response from him about being run off the road and threatened a few years ago. (Obviously I've long given up on that one!). Disappointing from a fellow ASLEF man.
And the comments on the article itself? Ooof!

eburtthebike | 5 months ago

How strange, a public body stuffed with public transport people demanding that the small amounts spent on active travel should be spent on public transport. 

Why aren't they asking for the vastly greater amounts spent on roads to go to public transport?  They couldn't be anti-active travel could they?

rxpell replied to eburtthebike | 5 months ago

Indeed - the SPT website is all about BUYING tickets for SPT bus and subway ... every journey made by active travel is money lost to SPT.  SPT claims to be a regional transport partnership yet their website doesnt feature anything I can see on active travel choices.

chrisonabike replied to eburtthebike | 5 months ago

Clearly - having won The War on The Motorist and forced drivers off the roads* the Evil Cycling Lobby is now turning its attention to dismantling public transport.

Yes, Dr. Beeching was an avid cyclist - you heard it here first.

* By causing congestion / demanding bonkers cycle facilities which no-one uses anyway / lobbying for LTNs which have trapped us in our houses / 30 to 20mph default limit changes which have almost put us out of business / having 3 parking spaces removed which has ripped the heart out of our town centre etc.

chrisonabike | 5 months ago

Simon MacMichael wrote:

For 2023-24, £190 million has been committed to active travel in the country, equivalent to around £38 million per capita – compared to just £1 per head in England outside London after the active travel budget was slashed by Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt earlier this year.

I knew we were spending more but I never realised just how much.

(Sorry Simon, couldn't help myself...)

Miller | 5 months ago

I'm surprised they think there's enough money in the active travel budget to make it worth raiding for other modes of transport. 

HLaB | 5 months ago
1 like

Slow news day? A public transport group calling for more money out of the sustainable travel budget, its hardly surprising  7

chrisonabike replied to HLaB | 5 months ago

Problem is, they know there's a more than a chance they'll get it albeit maybe not immediately, this time.

Elsewhere in the UK IIRC cycle money has indeed been spent on things to benefit motorists.  (And that's ignoring the fact that cycle infra *is* motoring infra really...)

You know where they're coming from when you here "sense of balance has been lost" - we're firmly into "but how can you be funding a few cyclists' hobby when old people aren't able to get about?"

And it's also the usual mindset of "old people" vs. "cycling" - of course cycle infra absolutely benefits "old people who can't cycle" if you do it properly.  (And indeed benefits everyone, because it can take cars off the streets, which helps the buses and those who really need driven places etc. etc.)

I agree we could do more on public transport - but that absolutely shouldn't come from the active travel budget.  We're ignoring another smaller elephant on our streets here... Besides, even some of the bus, train and tram folks are well aware that good provision for active travel hugely facilitates public transport by expanding "catchment areas" of stations and indeed bus / tram stops.

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