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January Newsletter — Campaigns Update

Published 21 January 2021 by Matt McDonald

Transform Scotland Communications Officer Matt McDonald reports on a selection of our recent campaigns activities.

Scotland’s Climate Assembly

Transform communications officer Matt McDonald gave evidence to Scotland’s Climate Assembly ‘Transport and Work’ stream on Saturday 9 January. You can view the video in full here:

Matt then attended a session of the Children’s Parliament to explore sustainable travel solutions for Scotland. The MCPs (Members of the Children’s Parliament) were very keen on having lots more safe walking and cycling paths and bringing S’Cool Bus to Scotland – that’s a cross between a very small pedal-powered bus and a very large four wheeled bicycle. The Children’s Parliament will provide feedback to the Climate Assembly and we hope to see their ideas reflected in the Assembly’s recommendations to Government.

Climate Change Plan 

Since our last newsletter at the end of November 2020, the Scottish Government has published a draft update to the Climate Change Plan.  We called for a significant shift in thinking and action to tackle emissions from transport:

“Scotland’s infrastructure priorities have long been the biggest barrier to emission reduction in the transport sector. Without addressing this continued trend the new Climate Change Plan will not bring the transport sector in line with Scotland’s net zero targets.” Colin Howden, Transform Scotland Director

We submitted evidence on the Climate Change Plan to the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee and the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee. 

In our response, we gave six key recommendations to turn round 30 years of failure to cut transport emissions:

  1. The Plan should be amended so that the transport sector at least meets its share (56%) of the emissions reduction required by 2032.
  2. The Scottish Parliament should scrutinise the Scottish Government’s plans for implementing its 20% traffic reduction target. 
  3. The Plan should set out what traffic demand management measures Transport Scotland will be responsible for.
  4. The Plan should bring forward a moratorium and review of all road-building projects, in line with advice received from the Infrastructure Commission, The Just Transition Commission, The Climate Change Committee and others.
  5. The Plan should make provision for all Scottish Public Bodies to rule out air travel, except in exceptional circumstances.
  6. The Plan should include a wider range of progress indicators, including on active travel, rail freight and reduction in short-haul aviation. 

We also highlighted the Sottish Government’s failure to address governance and behaviour change issues. 

There is a need for urgent clarity on how these commitments will be delivered and when. The only measurable for the Scottish Parliament and people on Outcome 1 is the 20% reduction in car km by 2030. Without milestones, or specific deliverables to get there, how can this be scrutinised? After decades of failure to make any progress on this, it cannot be enough only to hope that it is achieved by 2030.

A major issue undermining all government leadership on climate change is that the messaging is inconsistent. On climate the message is not clear – government asks us to walk, cycle and use the bus. Yet, the government investment is in roads, increasing traffic and it is cheaper to use your car. This is a lesson learned time and again through covid. To achieve behaviour change people have to understand why action is needed, and key messages for action have to be clear, consistent and led by government. These are major issues to tackle to achieve what is needed.

Infrastructure Investment Priorities

A9 dualling from above

It is disappointing that the Climate Change Committee (CCC) continues its focus on technofixes such as electric cars, instead of recognising the wider benefits of a shift towards active travel and public transport. It also remains unsatisfactory that the Committee continues to fail to criticise the existing high-carbon focus of government investment:

“Unfortunately, the CCC has again pulled its punches, failing to set out clear criticism of the existing high-carbon focus of government investment. It makes a single tangential reference to road-building, but avoids making any recommendations for changes to existing capital expenditure priorities.” Colin Howden, Transform Scotland Director

We also submitted a response to the Union Connectivity Review call for evidence. We found no evidence of travel demand for an Irish Sea bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

Instead, we made five recommendations for the Review to focus on: 

  1. Improving direct bus links from Edinburgh/Glasgow/Dumfries/Carlisle to Cairnryan
  2. Improving bus interchange from key points on the rail network (e.g. Ayr, Dumfries)
  3. Improving the Ayr-Stranraer railway line
  4. Extending the Ayr-Stranraer line to Cairnryan
  5. Reopening the (Carlisle-)Dumfries-Stranraer railway line.


In December, we published our response to the Scottish Government’s ‘Free bus travel for people resident in Scotland aged under 19′ consultation. 

“The cost of travel is an important factor to consider for many young people when travelling to their place of education, leisure activities or other appointments. Bus will provide opportunities for young people to travel and participate in activities that they might have otherwise been excluded from due to the affordability of travel.”  Marie Ferdelman, Transform Scotland Policy Officer,

And in early January we welcomed Transport Scotland’s proposal for a hard shoulder running for buses on the M8 and M9.

“Any measures to improve bus reliability and journey times are to be welcomed and I look forward to these proposals being introduced unamended. However, to bring about the far-reaching changes needed to reduce transport-related climate emissions in Scotland, what is required is a huge switch in focus away from road-building towards public and active transport.” Nigel Bagshaw, Transform Scotland Policy Advisor