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Infrastructure Investment Plan “disastrous” for climate change & sustainable transport

Published 04 February 2021 by Transform Scotland

When the Scottish Government published the draft Infrastructure Investment Plan in September last year we called the Government out on its ‘warm words’ about a green recovery and sustainable investment while continuing its disproportionately high investment in high-carbon infrastructure. In our response to the draft we urged the Government to realign its transport spending with the recommendations made by the Infrastructure Commission and the sustainable investment hierarchy contained within the Plan.

Along with Paths for All, RSPB Scotland, Sustrans Scotland, & WWF Scotland, we wrote to the Government to express our “deep concern” with the Plan. None of those concerns have been taken account of in this final version of the Plan.

Today’s publication of the final version of the Infrastructure Investment Plan today has proven yet again though that while the Scottish Government likes to talk about its concern about the climate crisis and its ambition to reach net zero by 2045, it is unwilling to take any meaningful action.

On the positive side, the new Plan does include some improvements, notably:

  1. introducing a reference to the net zero and inclusive growth targets in the investment hierarchy
  2. including the recent commitments to establishing Active Freeways (£50 million) and funding for zero-emission buses (£120 million)
  3. including continued support for the modernisation of the Glasgow subway and the promise to complete two new ferries for the Arran and Uig triangle

Unfortunately these changes are overshadowed by the outsized road-building programme. Not only has the Scottish Government failed to reassess the road-building programme, but the list of road projects has grown between the draft and final Plan. This is not only disappointing but also casts doubt on the Government’s commitment to its only recently announced 20% traffic reduction target.

The committed transport spend in the document adds up to:

  • £2.38 billion low-carbon transport
  • £6.96 billion high-carbon transport

Transform policy officer Marie Ferdelman said:

“The Infrastructure Investment Plan, as presented today by Michael Matheson is disastrous for sustainable transport. The investment priorities set through the list of major projects and programmes, will continue Scotland’s disproportionate spend on high carbon infrastructure project, while neglecting the much needed boost in investment for public transport and active travel.

“Not only that, the Plan is also disastrous for the Government’s credibility on climate change policy. The Scottish Government’s rhetoric on climate change and investment priorities simply do not add up. The discrepancy between the Government’s policy commitments and its spending on transport make it clear that they are willing to set ambitious targets but unwilling to follow through on these.”

The Plan does contain vague commitments to the ‘rail decarbonisation action plan’ and ‘rail major projects enhancement’, both of which are described as potentially having a value in the billions. However, previous commitments have been made to major rail enhancement projects which were subsequently abandoned. Yesterday, Phase 1 of STPR2 (Strategic Transport Project Review) was published, but the initial STPR (December 2008) contained these commitments, none of which have subsequently been delivered upon:

  • Highland Mainline rail improvements, 35 minute journey time savings promised: zero progress
  • Rail improvements between Aberdeen and the Central Belt — 2 hr journey times promised: zero progress
  • West of Scotland Strategic Rail enhancements, £1.5bn-£3bn promised: absolutely no sign of this


Low-carbon transport capex £2,380m (£2.38bn), made up of:

£352m sustainable & active travel
£50m Active Freeways
£287m public sector fleet / Future Transport Fund
£505m bus priority
£120m green buses
£282m Subway modernisation
£193m – £197m CMAL vessels
£281m CMAL vessels
£306m piers & harbours

High-carbon transport capex £6,963m (£6.93bn), made up of:

£3,000m A9
£3,000m A96
£250-500 A82
£46m A77
£50m Haudagain
£18m A737
£44m A801
£35m HIAL
£250-270m City Deal road-building

Excluded as either not committed, or too vague:

rail decarbonisation action plan — no figure given, except “Multi £billion”
£45m ‘STPR – potential pipeline projects’ — as unclear what this is for
rail major projects enhancement — no figure given, except “Multi £billion”


Correction, 11/02/21: the originally published version of this page erroneously stated the ‘City Deal road-building’ figure as “£250-500m” rather than the correct figure of “£250-270m”. However, the overall figure of £6,963m remains correct.