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New transport strategy fails to set out concrete programme of action to tackle the Climate Emergency

Published 05 February 2020 by Transform Scotland

“Simple hypocrisy” to talk of global climate emergencies whilst prioritising new high-carbon infrastructure spend


Transform Scotland has today (Wednesday 5 February) responded to the publication of the Scottish Government’s new National Transport Strategy. [1] [2]

Colin Howden, Director of Transform Scotland, said:

“It is distressing that this new strategy, despite being more than three years in the making, sets out absolutely no new action to tackle the Climate Emergency. We don’t need more platitudes about the need for change, we need a concrete programme of action for decarbonising the transport sector.

“Transport is the largest source of Scotland’s emissions. These continue to rise and nothing has been done to reduce them in 30 years. Yet there is nothing of substance in this strategy that will reverse that trend.

“What is urgently required is a fundamental overhaul of the Scottish Government’s capital expenditure priorities. Independent analysis by the Scottish Parliament demonstrates that the Government has systematically favoured high-carbon over low-carbon infrastructure spend over the past decade, yet its current plans are to move further towards high-carbon spending. [3] It is simple hypocrisy to talk of global climate emergencies while at the same time arranging one’s own investment plans to prioritise new high-carbon infrastructure.

“Over the past decade, the Scottish Ministers took decisive, if wrong-headed, action to prioritise spending on new roads instead of sustainable transport. Now it is imperative that they take action to reverse their spending plans and prioritise investment in walking, cycling, and public transport.”



[1] About 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] Scottish Government National Transport Strategy

Available at

[3] Scottish Parliament research on Scottish Government infrastructure investment

“This [Scottish Parliament] analysis suggests the Scottish Government’s investment in projects expected to increase emissions will increase, while investment in projects expected to decrease emissions will decrease.” (see pp38-39 of

[4] Some further initial thoughts on the strategy

The document contains a series of bland platitudes about transport, most of which could have been written any time in the past 25 years. The previous strategies, which date from 1998 and 2006, both featured a much clearer set of committed action. The climate focus present in the document is far from novel, having been one of the three main strands of the 2006 strategy.

The document contains no targets, no budgets, and a mere half-page discussion about a delivery plan promised for some unspecified point in the future. Meanwhile, the never-ending discussion about the future of transport governance arrangements at local and regional levels seems to have gone nowhere, with the discussion present in the 2019 consultation document omitted in the final published version. In fact, this seems to be the main substantive change from the consultation draft.

We are at least certain that none of the proposals that we have submitted to Transport Scotland, as a member of the NTS2 Partnership Group (main external stakeholder group), as a member of the NTS2 Greener & Healthier Working Group, or in our response to the 2019 consultation, have been taken on board in any meaningful fashion:

Transform Scotland has published a short set of commitments that we would have expected to have been addressed in a national transport strategy genuinely committed to tackling the Climate Emergency. None of these are addressed in the final version of the strategy: