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Greater ambition required in Climate Plan to transform transport

Published 14 January 2021 by Transform Scotland

Transform Scotland has published its response to the Scottish Parliament Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee’s call for evidence on the updated Climate Change Plan.

Transport emissions over time have remained steady while other sectors have decarbonised

In our response, we note that there has been absolutely no progress in emission reduction from the transport sector over the past 30 years, with the result that transport is now the largest overall source of emissions (36%). Other sectors have had to bear a greater burden in reducing emissions as a direct consequence of the failure to decarbonise the transport sector.

Despite this historical lack of progress, we welcomed some recent commitments to the decarbonisation of public transport and on improving conditions for active travel, however, many of them remain vague and are generally not time-bound. These included:

  1. The commitment to reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2030 (p121). This is a welcome and long-overdue return to road traffic reduction as a headline policy objective.
  2. The recognition of the role of digital connectivity in reducing the necessity for travel.
  3. The commitment to ‘Active Freeways’, a “strategic active travel network”, and the commitment of £50m for the delivery of the first of these by 2025 (p122). However, there is no information on the plan on the location of this first Active Freeway, let alone when it will commence construction.
  4. The creation of the Bus Partnership Fund, as announced in the September 2019 Programme for Government, and the commitment to invest £500m for new bus priority measures.
  5. The commitment to £120 million investment over the next five years for Zero Emission Buses (pp126-7).
  6. The commitments towards rail electrification — although we consider this remains insufficiently ambitious. Despite a reference to ‘2032’ in the ‘Route Map’ (p120), the target date remains 2035 (p226).

The dualling of the A9

Despite this progress, the Plan contains no action to reverse the existing bias towards new high-carbon infrastructure, both in Transport Scotland budgets & in many City-Region Deals. 

We consider that the road traffic reduction target will be impossible to achieve while Transport Scotland’s transport capital expenditure priorities remain overwhelmingly skewed to high-carbon infrastructure.

Considering all of this, we make six overall recommendations to make the Plan suitable for the Climate Emergency Scotland is facing:

  1. The Plan should be amended so that the transport sector at least meet its proportionate share (56%) of the emissions reduction required during the period 2020-32.
  2. The Scottish Parliament should scrutinise the Scottish Government’s plans for implementing the 20% road traffic reduction target, as previous commitments in this area were not provided with adequate parliamentary scrutiny.
  3. The Plan should be amended to set out the road traffic demand management measures that Transport Scotland will be responsible for implementing (including developing its own proposals for a national road user charging scheme), and its role in financially supporting Local Authorities in implementing their own schemes (e.g. workplace parking levies, local road user charging schemes).
  4. The Plan should bring forward an urgent moratorium and review of all road-building projects in line with the advice received from the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland, Just Transition Commission, UK Climate Change Committee and others. Separately, but in parallel, we urge the Parliamentary committees to hold an inquiry into the decades of transport spend that has systematically exacerbated poor health, inequalities and the climate emergency.
  5. The Plan should make provision for the Scottish Government to provide a specific instruction that the Scottish Public Bodies (i) put in place robust travel policies that rule out air travel, except in exceptional circumstances, for travel between the Scottish Central Belt and London, and (ii) avoid the use of international aviation for business travel purposes except in exceptional circumstances.
  6. The Plan should include a wider range of transport progress indicators, including on active travel, rail freight haulage, and the reduction in short-haul aviation.