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Need for new Climate Plan to get Scottish public sector to take leadership in cutting emissions

Published 05 December 2016 by Jamie Wylie

Transform Scotland

For immediate use: Monday 5 December 2016

Transport campaign group calls for Scottish Ministers to hold to account Public Bodies who are failing to take action

Transform Scotland [1] today called for the Scottish Ministers to get the Scottish Public Sector to take leadership in cutting emissions as part of its new ‘Climate Change Plan’, public consultation on which is due to commence later this week. This call comes three years since Transform Scotland published research which found that over 60% of Scotland’s main public sector bodies (the ‘Major Player’ Public Bodies) had no plans in place to reduce their use of transport, and were massively dependent on air for travel for trips from the Scottish Central Belt to London (three-quarters of trips).

Scotland’s Public Bodies have a responsibility to reduce carbon emissions under the Public Bodies Climate Change Duties. With transport soon to become the largest source of emissions in Scotland, significant progress is unlikely to be made in reducing emissions unless the Public Bodies take serious efforts to reduce their transport emissions. Given that Scotland’s Public Bodies can play an influential role in engaging with various individuals on climate change issues, it is crucial that they adopt a position of leadership in the delivery of Scotland’s climate change ambitions.

Transform Scotland director Colin Howden said:

“Individuals and businesses cannot reasonably be expected to change their transport habits in the absence of leadership from national and local government. Our research found that Scotland’s Public Bodies were not providing the leadership on emissions reduction in transport that is needed if future climate targets are to be hit.

“The Scottish Ministers can show leadership here. The Public Bodies are directly within their control and, indeed, depend directly upon the Ministers for their funding. The Public Bodies’ reach into Scottish society is immense and so by demonstrating a willingness to take action in this sector, the Ministers can exert major influence over moving Scotland to a low-emission society.

“While our research found that overall public sector performance was poor, there were notable and praiseworthy exceptions. Particularly notable was that of SEPA, which had reduced its mainland Central Belt to London flights by 96%, and the progressive Travel Plan policies implemented by the National Library of Scotland. Many more need to follow their examples.

“The deadline has now passed for Public Bodies to submit their reports on their emissions under the Public Bodies Climate Change Duties. It’s incumbent upon the Scottish Ministers to hold to account those that are failing to take action.”



[1] Transform Scotland

Transform Scotland is the national alliance for sustainable transport, bringing together rail, bus and ferry operators, local authorities, national environment and conservation groups, businesses and local transport groups — see for details.

[2] ‘Doing Their Duty?’ report (November 2013), available at :

The report investigated the actions of the ‘Major Player’ Public Bodies, presenting a summary of their performance on three key areas of sustainable transport policy:

* Travel planning: Whether they had plans in place to reduce their transport impacts.

* Low Emission Vehicles: Whether they were making their vehicle fleet less polluting.

* Travel to London: Whether they were using rail rather than air for travel from Scotland to London.

The research project was carried out as there was then no ongoing, systematic monitoring as to whether the Public Bodies were taking action to move to sustainable transport. Given that transport is the second-largest source of emissions, and given the scale of the Scottish public sector, significant progress was unlikely to be made in reducing emissions unless there is evidence that Public Bodies are reducing their transport emissions. So this report attempted to fill that gap.

The key findings of this study were:

* At least 60% of Scottish Public Bodies had no plans for reducing their travel by means of implementing a Travel Plan. This was deeply disappointing given that they have been advised to do so, and offered practical support to do so, for well over a decade by that point.

* There was some evidence that Public Bodies’ vehicle fleets are moving towards the acquisition of Lower Emission Vehicles. It was unclear, however, whether this is due to the impact of the Public Bodies Duty (or whether this is due to the general trend towards lower emission vehicles as a result of European legislation).

* Public Bodies were overwhelmingly choosing air travel (74% of journeys) over rail travel (26%) for long-distance travel between Edinburgh/Glasgow and London, despite the former being substantially more polluting.