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September Campaigns Update

Published 21 September 2021 by Transform Scotland

Transform Scotland’s Communications Officer, Rachel McFarlane, reports on a selection of our recent campaigns activities.

Roads to Ruin report published

On August 10, we published a new report titled ‘Roads to Ruin’. This report found that despite promises to tackle the Climate Emergency, Scottish Ministers intended to nearly double their spending on new roads over the next decade, even though transport remains the largest source of climate change emissions in the country, having not budged for 30 years. Our report came out the day after the UN International Panel on Climate Change set out the scale of the effort needed to head off dangerous global climate instability.

The Scottish Government’s rhetoric on climate versus their actions, suggests a lack of intent to follow through with their plans to ‘Do Net Zero’. Therefore, we were very pleased to see some progress in this area through the cooperation deal between the SNP and the Scottish Greens, between whom a commitment has been made to scale back the £3bn A96 dualling programme.

You can read our full ‘Roads to Ruin’ report here: 

Corona Recovery series: Revisited

In June last year, we published our ‘Corona Recovery’ series of four reports that focused on central challenges that the transport sector was faced due to the pandemic. The reports made a series of recommendations aimed at ensuring that the corona recovery led us to a fairer, greener, and more robust transport system. 

One year on and three further reports were published in July, assessing what changes had been made in the Scottish transport sector in response to the pandemic so far, and whether these were in line with the recommendations given in the first set of ‘Corona Recovery’ reports. These were titled ‘Connected Recovery – One year on’, ‘A Just Recovery for Public Transport?’, and ‘Scotland’s Railway – The year ahead’.

The ‘Connected Recovery’ report reviewed progress made to establish remote and distributed working practices as a new norm, replacing the need for such extensive reliance on commuting in people’s working lives. The report reflected that, whilst it is hard to predict the long-term changes when the Covid restrictions remain in place, that there seems to have been little effort to take forward the recommendations of the Connected Recovery report and make the necessary steps to embed distributed working as a standard practice.

‘A Just Recovery for Public Transport?’ found that there has been different mobility outcomes for private compared to public transport users. While car travel has recovered almost entirely to pre-pandemic level (90%), Scottish bus and rail volumes remain far below (57% & 42%, respectively). In fact, Scottish public transport recovery was found to have lagged behind the British average since September 2020.

‘Scotland’s Railway – The year ahead’ assessed whether the potential transport benefits of lockdown had been captured, and whether the huge reduction in road traffic that we experienced at the beginning of the pandemic had been maintained. However, the report author Paul Tetlaw found that there has instead been significant falls in all forms of public transport and active travel, while car journeys are now at 95% of their pre-pandemic levels. 

We’ll be continuing to monitor the impacts of the pandemic on Scottish transport. Fortunately, much of the action that was required to head off the climate crisis will also help to turn around negative trends in public transport. If nothing else, the pandemic has demonstrated that change is possible in transport, and that remote working practices can even deliver benefits for some.

Ferries update with CalMac & CMAL

We were pleased to meet with CalMac & CMAL earlier this month to hear about their plans for decarbonisation of Scotland’s ferry fleet. CalMac leases 31 ferries from CMAL, of which three are electric hybrid ferries, and the intention is to move towards electric and hydrogen across the fleet. CMAL’s current focus is the ‘Small Vessel Replacement Programme’, with the German ferry design consultancy Navalue just appointed to advise CMAL on low-carbon options. However, it’s the larger ferries that generate most emissions, and the alternative power options such as hydrogen or ammonia, while developing, are not yet available for these larger vessels. CMAL are currently involved in the HySeas project which is testing hydrogen powered ferry operation in Orkney: So while fully-decarbonised options are now readily available for bus and for rail, the winds and the waves mean that equivalent technology for ferries still seems some way off. Nevertheless, we’ve agreed to keep discussions open, and would be happy to feed in members’ views to CalMac & CMAL.