A new report published today (Tuesday 28 November) from the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Sustainable Transport calls for the Government to take urgent action to decarbonise Scotland’s public transport network. The report finds that a country-wide transition to zero-carbon buses, trains and ferries would allow Scotland to become both self-sufficient and a net exporter of alternative fuels and associated skills and expertise.
The ‘Fossil Free Future’ report outlines the findings of the Group’s inquiry into the Government’s plans for cutting emissions from public transport. The inquiry was conducted in response to widespread concerns that progress against the Government’s climate targets is falling behind.
In addition to improving air pollution and public health, the report highlights that decarbonising Scotland’s public transport fleets will allow Scotland to capitalise on its wealth of renewables and establish local climate-friendly fuel supply chains. The Group recommends that the Scottish Government brings forward its ‘Green Industrial Strategy’ (promised in 2021 but still to be published) with a key focus on decarbonising public transport in order to end reliance on fossil fuels.
The report is based on oral evidence presented to the Group from Alexander Dennis, Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research Oslo, Confederation for Passenger Transport, European Marine Energy Centre, First Bus, Railway Industry Association, SPL Powerlines, as well as written evidence received from a wide range of other organisations. The report was prepared by Transform Scotland, Scotland’s alliance for sustainable transport, who provide the secretariat for the Cross Party Group.
The report sets out a set of recommendations that the Scottish Government should consider in light of its legally binding target to be net-zero by 2045:
- Incentivise the purchase of zero-emission buses by introducing an enhanced Network Support Grant (NSG) rate for their use.
- Put in place a rolling programme of rail electrification as part of a refresh of Transport
- Scotland’s Rail Services Decarbonisation Action Plan.
- Make the presumption that, where possible, all new ferries procured should be plug-in electric.
- Use the Scottish Government’s planned bond issue to finance investment in zero-carbon public transport infrastructure.
- Ensure the Scottish Government’s forthcoming ‘Green Industrial Strategy’ facilitates the development of local renewable energy sources which can be used to power Scotland’s future vehicle and vessel fleets.
CPG convenor Graham Simpson MSP (Conservatives) said:
“This report considers how we can decarbonise public transport, and we have come up with a set of recommendations for the Government that are clear and challenging. These include the need for further funding to buy zero-emission buses, prioritising electrification of the rail network so there are as few gaps as possible and, on ferries ensuring that, where possible, all new ferries should be plug-in electric. Scotland is not doing well enough to decarbonise transport, though progress is being made and we recognise that.
“Public health, air pollution and the economy stand to gain from zero-carbon public transport – but it also has a role to play in attracting new passengers to rail, bus and ferry. Concerns exist around cost barriers associated with pursuing fossil-free alternatives – however, our report warns that costs must not be passed on to users if we are to build a thriving public transport network in Scotland.”
CPG deputy convenor Mark Ruskell MSP (Green) said:
“The need to create attractive, high quality public transport services goes hand in hand with de-carbonisation and the big societal switch to clean electric power. The report shows that finding ways to resolve the funding challenge will be key.”
CPG deputy convenor Sarah Boyack MSP (Labour) said:
“This report makes important recommendations. We urgently need political leadership and investment to give people access to reliable, affordable and sustainable transport. That requires innovation, and a joined up approach to delivering and powering low carbon transport infrastructure.”
CPG deputy convenor John Mason MSP (SNP) said:
“This Report gives a great sense of direction towards zero-carbon public transport. It should focus all our minds on what should and can be done. Finance remains a key challenge, with costs of capital projects rising faster than available funds. Issuing bonds could help (although these are not additional finance).”
The report will be presented to MSPs at an event in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday evening, which will feature an address by the Scottish Government Transport Minister Fiona Hyslop MSP, and presentations from the Convenor, Transform Scotland, Alexander Dennis, CMAL and Railway Industry Association.