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October Newsletter — Campaigns Update

Published 29 October 2020 by Transform Scotland

Transform’s communications officer Matt McDonald reports on a selection of our recent campaigns activities.

Infrastructure Investment Plan

We had a close look at the draft Infrastructure Investment Plan (IIP) upon its publication on 24 September. We shared our initial reaction on the day of publication. Transform director, Colin Howden, commented:

“There are lots of warm words in the Plan about ‘Green Recovery’, ‘Green Jobs’, and ‘Net Zero Carbon Economy’. But as far as we can see there’s not a single new penny in the Plan for low-carbon, sustainable transport. This is despite transport being the largest source of carbon emissions in Scotland, and in the context of the Scottish Government’s own commitment to take action on the Climate Emergency.

“There appears to be no new money for active and public transport. Everything in the Plan (e.g. £500m for active travel, £495m for buses, £3.8bn for rail) is for existing commitments.”

Transform policy officer, Marie Ferdelman then presented a more detailed summary of the draft IIP to the Transform members during a videocall. You can view the presentation here and a recording of the videocall here.

Marie presented a summary of the draft IIP noting that it did not include costings of the significant road-building projects referenced in the plan. Marie then summarised her commentary on the IIP:

  • There was a stronger focus on climate framing: the commitment to a new investment hierarchy and the Infrastructure Commission’s recommendations.
  • While we welcome the continued commitment to previously-announced low-carbon infrastructure projects, there was also no new investment.
  • However, numerous large-scale road-building projects remain an investment priority despite the new investment hierarchy.
  • The list of spending priorities remains the same as it has been for past years, making clear that the commitment to more sustainable transport investment appears nothing more than ‘warm words’.
  • There is an almost complete lack of cost estimates for the roads projects.
  • The inconsistency in which projects have been included in IIPs make it nearly impossible to compare spending priorities across years and the wide range of projects from committed to wishlist projects obscure the purpose of the IIPs.

Scotland’s Railway: Decarbonisation and Enhancement

As part of our ongoing campaigning on decarbonising the railway in Scotland Paul Tetlaw, the convener of Transform’s policy forum, wrote an article for Rail Professional journal. In it, Paul welcomes the plans to decarbonise Scotland’s railway but argued that there is more work to do if the railway is to play its part in a truly sustainable transport network.

Paul noted that for this plan to achieve a real modal shift from road to rail, it needed to be accompanied by a series of capacity enhancements, citing the example of the Highland Main Line from Perth to Inverness. Paul said:

“Here we have had political promises of significantly faster journey times to ensure that ‘railways should be able to compete with roads’ and yet a huge investment programme of £3 billion is instead focussed on the parallel A9 road making journey times there by car and lorry even quicker and encouraging modal shift away from the railway to the road. This is hardly consistent with the declared intentions of the Scottish Government.”

Bus

The coronavirus pandemic has proven extremely challenging for a bus sector that must remain a crucial part of the Scottish transport system if we are to achieve our emission reduction targets. Over the last month Transform, alongside our #lovemybus campaign, have supported calls for the bus sector to be prioritised in plans for a green recovery.

The interim funding to support bus services is welcome. However, bus patronage levels remain significantly depressed, and the pandemic has dealt a blow to operators’ investment in new fleet, damaging the prospects for green bus manufacturers such as ADL.

There’s clearly a lot of work needed to promote the benefits of bus in Scotland. We’re going to be relaunching our #lovemybus campaign, and you can expect to see a lot more of this over coming months.