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STPR2 analytical framework outdated for era of the Climate Emergency

Published 29 April 2020 by Transform Scotland

Recent SG capital expenditure has been biased towards high-carbon, and is scheduled to worsen further. Source: Scottish Parliament Information Centre. See Figure 13.

Transform Scotland has published its response to the Transport Scotland call for views on ‘Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2) – National Case for Change Report’.

Transform director Colin Howden said:

“The report contains a useful analysis of key challenges that are faced by transport. It is also welcome also to see a formal rejection of the ‘Predict and Provide’ approach.

“However, the analytical framework that is being proposed contains much outdated thinking, using the same methods that have for decades systematically failed to prioritise sustainable transport in favour of high-carbon spending. The framework being proposed is grossly unsatisfactory for appraising transport investment needs in the context of the Climate Emergency and the need for a green, inclusive recovery from the Coronavirus Crisis.

“Transport Scotland’s vast road-building programme, massively largely per capita than even that being pursued by the Westminster Government, is horribly inconsistent with the Scottish Ministers’ professed commitment to tackling the Climate Emergency. While other sectors are decarbonising, current capital expenditure plans are scheduled to become even more skewed towards high-carbon spend. It is apparent that there is at present a systematic bias towards high-carbon expenditure, something that is gravely inconsistent with Ministerial priorities for tackling the Climate Emergency. In order to hit Net Zero carbon targets, STPR2 will need to jettison legacy projects which are inconsistent with this new priority.”

In our full response, we highlight:

1. Flawed definition of ‘strategic transport projects’

The proposed definition effectively excludes investment on most local walking, cycling and public transport projects. In the context of the Climate Emergency, we recommend that ‘strategic’ capital expenditure priorities should instead be fundamentally refocused on low-carbon investment.

2. Outdated assumptions around transport & economy linkages

The report contains outdated assumptions which have been discredited within expert transport circles. We recommend abandoning the use of outdated appraisal methodologies such as STAG which assume journey-time savings for private motorised vehicles result in inclusive economic growth.

3. Failure to model road traffic trends consistent with Net Zero carbon target

The road traffic growth projections (39% increase in distance travelled by 2037) are incompatible with all of the NTS2/STPR2 Priorities. Despite the formal rejection of ‘Predict & Provide’, we remain concerned that the persistence of such forecasts will be used to justify further new road-building projects which increase road capacity.

4. No consideration given to economic instruments as part of demand management

Whilst we welcome the inclusion of ‘demand management’ as an option to be considered (p3), we are dumbfounded at the absence of reference to economic instruments as a part of this. This is remarkable given that the Scottish Ministers led an amendment to the Transport Act (2019) to allow local authorities to implement Workplace Parking Levy schemes.


The deadline for responses is Thursday 30 April and the details on how to respond can be found here.