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Scottish Budget: No new investment for sustainable transport

Published 28 January 2021 by Transform Scotland

The Scottish Government published its 2021/22 budget today, setting out its spending priorities for the coming year. The transport portfolio appears to contain no surprises but also no new investment for sustainable transport beyond what has already been announced. Nonetheless, the budget includes a number of positive spending priorities, including:

  • £100.5 million for active travel — albeit no increase from the previous year
  • continued support for buses & concessionary fares
  • a 3% increase in the rail budget
  • a 62% increase in the digital connectivity budget.

This spending will support the Scottish Government’s aims to reduce carbon emissions in the transport sector, as set out in the Climate Change Plan update published in December. What is more concerning is the persistently large motorways and trunk roads budget that has been increased yet again from £748.9 million to £825.9 million, a 10% increase. The key test will be how the roads budget is spent, which will be clearer after the publication of the Infrastructure Investment Plan next week.

Transform Scotland’s Policy Officer, Marie Ferdelman said:

“While we welcome the continued support for sustainable transport, the roads budget remains disproportionately high for a budget that claims to support a ‘green recovery’, so we hope to see a shift in priorities away from road-building towards increased investment in sustainable transport in next week’s Infrastructure Investment Plan.”

While the Budget commits to “continue to take bold action to reduce both car usage and the emissions of road vehicles”, it also damagingly commits to continuing with its multi-billion pound road-building programme, highlighting “dualling of the A9” as a specific commitment (see page 40).

Its own carbon analysis demonstrates that there is no move in this Budget towards prioritising low-carbon, instead highlighting a modest increase in the high-carbon spend share of the Budget — specifically due to the increase in roads spending (page 171).

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