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Climate plan priorities fail on equalities, health, congestion and the economy

Published 10 February 2017 by Colin Howden

Transform Scotland

Friday 10 February 2017


Transform Scotland [1] has today called for stronger action to tackle transport emissions in the draft Climate Change Plan. The criticism comes on the final day for evidence to be submitted to the Scottish Parliamentary committees who are undertaking a scrutiny of the policies and proposals put forward by the Scottish Government in its new Climate Plan. [2]

Transform Scotland has criticised the proposed actions for transport in the Plan. Whilst containing a reasonable level of ambition for emissions cuts, the Plan is heavily dependent on technological change, such as the uptake of electric cars. In contrast, the Plan largely ignores opportunities provided by walking, cycling, public transport, and car sharing, and is extremely weak on road traffic demand management.

In particular, the focus on vehicle technology means that few if any benefits will be felt for equalities, public health, congestion or the economy.

Commenting on the Climate Change Plan, Colin Howden, Director of Transform Scotland, said:

“Very little progress has been made in transport over the past 25 years, and this new Climate Change Plan is certainly better than the previous two plans. However, the plan is far from perfect. Once again, the proposals have largely ignored the need to get people out of cars and start walking, cycling or taking public transport. The focus on vehicle technology means that few if any benefits will be felt for equalities, public health, congestion or the economy.

“It’s well-known that lower income groups own fewer cars, so a focus on vehicle technology does little to help households with no car access. This is all the more so the case with electric vehicles given their current higher purchase prices. A switch from petrol cars to electric cars will certainly do nothing for congestion, and with none of these cars manufactured in Scotland, there will be no benefit for the Scottish economy.

“On the other hand, we do have bus manufacturing in Scotland, so it is disappointing that the climate plan is so weak on promoting bus use. This would also have a greater equalities impact given that lower income households are much more dependent on buses, and could reduce congestion by getting people to switch from car to bus.

“The weakness of the plan on promoting walking and cycling for short journeys is also disappointing. Most travel is very local, and many of these trips could be switched to walking and cycling. The Scottish Government has many other policies in place for promoting these healthiest modes of transport, so it is strange that they are largely ignored in the Climate Change Plan.”

Transform Scotland have submitted two evidence papers to Parliament Committees, given oral evidence to one Parliamentary Committee, met leading climate civil servants, and raised issues in person with the transport minister. [2]

Howden concluded:

“The Scottish Government now needs to take on board the advice from ourselves and others to make improvements to the Climate Change Plan. There is a real opportunity to develop a sustainable transport system in Scotland, and it is important that this consultation phase hasn’t all been for nothing.”



[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.

[3] Scottish Government Climate Change Plan

See links from <>.

[2] Transform Scotland evidence on Climate Change Plan

Our evidence to the Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee and Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) Committee is available at <>. The former looks at the transport components of the plan more generally, while the latter makes recommendations for emissions reductions within Scotland’s Public Bodies. Our chair Phil Matthews’ oral evidence to the Parliament’s REC Committee (08/02/17) is available at <>.