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New Year’s Message: Addressing the climate emergency needs a transport revolution

Published 03 January 2020 by Transform Scotland

Opportunity for change: business as usual, fuelled differently or a just, inclusive vision?

The UK Climate Change Committee report published on 17 December shows that serious action is needed on transport, with emissions from transport at the highest level since the Climate Change (Scotland) Act was passed in 2009. This trend should have been going in the opposite direction.

As recent analysis from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre has shown, twenty years of prioritising public spend on new roads has increased road traffic.

Jobs, skills and expertise critical to the Scottish economy could be delivering better health outcomes and better choices for travellers with investment in public transport. This would also address inequalities, improve quality of lives and access to services across our country. Yet once again public transport, investment in bus, rail and ferries, remains largely neglected in the UK CCC recommendations.

The recent, and welcome, Scottish Government commitment to invest in bus is still just a fragment of what we are spending on new roads being built now to lock in further growth in road traffic and greenhouse gas emissions. The programme on rail has had some good outcomes but rather than rolling, has kept stalling and achieved far less than planned in 2008. It now needs to move fast to allow us to choose clean fuel options in 2030.

While some are urgently needed, the actions on transport highlighted by the UK Climate Change Committee relate largely to private electric vehicles and cleaner HGVs. Action to address whether and how we move around, investment in infrastructure, strategic planning and major projects – where projected spend is mainly on high carbon infrastructure are barely addressed.

Two of the most urgent and significant climate actions to reduce emissions are missed – rather than await new HGVs, we need to shift freight to rail (taking up to 77 lorries off the road per train) and urgently put in place a moratorium on new roads.

It is a change of mode and mindset, not just fuel, that is required. The UK CCC actions suggest business as usual, but with cleaner fuel. But business as usual is not working for Scotland.

Congestion, inactivity, health inequalities, affordability and access to good quality, reliable, sustainable transport options are not improved by a primary focus on private cars.

Transform Scotland is campaigning for an inclusive, efficient transport system across the country that enables everyone to have access to safe, good quality, affordable choices that improve health, quality of lives, efficiencies, address inequalities and strengthen our economy.

A whole system approach that allows us all to avoid unsustainable travel, shift to active and sustainable options and improve all these modes of transport as far as possible.

Addressing the climate emergency needs a transport revolution. One that Scotland can lead. One that can generate huge benefits. We build buses and ships. We do not build cars. Scotland is home to leading expertise, skills and experience in rail. We know that people using public transport are more likely to be active, improving physical and mental health and well being with benefits for all.

The revolution to a just, zero-emission transport system, must start now. The opportunities must be for everyone, right across the country, not just those with the loudest voices. We should not be continuing to perpetuate the myth that we can continue business as usual with a focus largely on private transport. This may feel like the easiest switch but it is not the right choice for our planet or our people.

We have a choice. What is the vision?

A complete transport revolution could be delivered by 2030 in Scotland, on bus, rail, and in active travel. This would seize national and global opportunities to generate wide benefits, while addressing serious problems with our transport system and reducing emissions.

Or we can spend on a cleaner version of business as usual, where some may benefit but most of our people and places will continue to pay a high price with growing health inequalities and a lack of active and sustainable choices for us all in everyday lives. A Scotland where cars dominate public spaces, congestion and preventative disease increases.

This is a choice that Scotland needs to make now. Scottish Government’s words sound like they describe the inclusive vision, but right now their spend is being concreted into business as usual.

Emergencies demand urgent action. Transform Scotland hopes 2020 sees the Scottish Government urgently invest and progress delivery of a clear new vision, to benefit the whole nation and inspire the world.


Call to action: If you share our vision, make sure your voice is heard. This next week sees the end of the Scottish Government’s consultation on its Strategic Transport Projects Review. The outcome of this process will demonstrate the commitment of Scottish Government: whether to business as usual, 20 more years of new roads, increased traffic & emissions — or a system for everyone, better health, jobs and places.