MORE than £2 million of taxpayers’ cash handed to Scotland’s councils to spend on SNP government green transport schemes is lying unused in bank accounts.
The Scottish Government has allocated almost £8m to local authorities to encourage them to use electrical vehicles to deliver key council services. However, more than £2m of this money has still not been spent, according to figures released under Freedom of Information. Some councils have yet to spend any of their allocation, with a third of authorities not even having electrical charging points to power up the green vehicles.
The Scottish Government has heavily promoted environmentally-friendly transport and wants to subsidise green vehicles as part of its low-carbon vehicle support scheme. Ministers claim the planned increased use of electric vehicles will help reduce carbon emissions by 42 per cent by 2020 as well as leading to reduced costs for motorists.
South Lanarkshire had the biggest underspend, with £309,000 unused, while Edinburgh had £280,000 unspent and Fife £220,000 remaining, the figures released by councils showed. The underspend means that of the £7.8m handed to councils, about £5.5m has been spent by local authorities on the programme since 2010.
Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone called on SNP ministers to have the unused millions of pounds redeployed to key areas that he said were starved of funds. He said: “What is the point in giving councils money to be spent on environmental initiatives which are clearly not a priority for them? What’s worse, this £2m of unspent cash could have been used far more wisely in services people actually need and care about.
“Instead, we have this vast sum gathering dust while people’s cars are being damaged by potholed roads, teacher-pupils ratios are widening and council care workers are under even more pressure to meet demands.”
However, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities defended the decisions taken by councils, saying: “The move to green transport cannot happen instantly and what you are seeing is councils showing proper thought-through financial planning and the use of money in appropriate stages.”
Meanwhile, the SNP insisted that progress was being made on the use of electric vehicles in areas such as Glasgow, Dundee and Falkirk. Institutions such as Strathclyde University, Dundee University and Edinburgh College of Art are also testing electric vehicle schemes for use, the government claimed.
A spokesman said: “The Scottish Government has an ambitious climate change target of reducing carbon emissions by 42 per cent by 2020 and the uptake of electric vehicles will be a vital part of achieving this.
“Electric vehicles not only benefit the environment, they can also mean much cheaper running costs for drivers and fantastic opportunities for the numerous Scottish firms already working in the sector, which also leads to an improved jobs market and obvious benefits for the wider economy.”