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Alarming failure by STPR2 to consider economic instruments for reducing traffic

Published 06 April 2021 by Transform Scotland

Congestion charge by (Mick Baker)rooster on Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Transform Scotland has today published its response to the Transport Scotland consultation on the Jacobs/Aecom ‘STPR2 Update on Phase 1 Recommendations’ report. Amongst other things, the report sets out a set of 20 recommended interventions, many of which are welcome, and at least half of which Transform has advocated for at some point.

The report also proposes a further list of 80 measures which will be taken forward for further analysis. However, none of these 80 measures include the use of economic instruments (e.g. road pricing, parking levies). This is despite the Scottish Ministers having set themselves the ambitious target of reducing road traffic levels by 20% by 2030, a target which the Scottish Parliament’s transport committee has recently said will require “radical concrete policy measures” to achieve. [1] Transform Scotland’s view is that there is little hope of achieving significant cuts to traffic levels without changing the price signals faced by transport users. In real terms, motoring is continuing to become cheaper while public transport is continuing to become more expensive.

Transform director Colin Howden said:

“It is deeply alarming that economic instruments do not feature within the initial set of recommendations, or even within the much longer list of proposals. Given that the Scottish Ministers themselves amended the 2019 transport act to provide local authorities with enablng powers to implement Workplace Parking Levy schemes, it appears to us an act of incompetence that the STPR2 process has failed to take forward any further consideration of the role of economic instruments in cutting traffic levels.

“While Scotland currently does not have powers devolved to it over fiscal instruments such as Fuel Duty or Vehicle Excise Duty, local pricing powers do exist through the 2001 and 2019 Scottish transport acts (for local road user charging and workplace parking levy schemes, respectively). Furthermore, as exemplified by the bill introduced to the Parliament which became the 2001 transport act when trunk road user charging was proposed, Scottish Ministers could seek to put in place further powers over such matters without revision to the devolution settlement.”