SNP's green vision for public vehicles goes downhill fast

AN SNP pledge for all public- sector vehicles to run on "green" fuels within the next decade has fallen short after it emerged that just 3 per cent of their cars and vans currently use alternative power sources such as electricity or biodiesel.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) revealed that just 669 of the 20,534 vehicles operated by Scotland's health boards, police forces and local authorities run on alternative fuel.

In its manifesto, the SNP said it planned to launch a consultation over targets for green fuel vehicles - aiming to impose targets of 100 per cent use of alternative fuels by public-sector vehicles and a 30 per cent target for other road users by 2020.

But the data revealed that only 4.5 per cent of vehicles used by Scottish councils are classed as low carbon, while just 1.1 per cent of health board vehicles and 0.7 per cent of police force vehicles meet the party's ambitious targets.

Last year, the Scottish Government's Low Carbon Vehicle Procurement Support Scheme pledged 3.6 million to "bridge the gap" between the cost of a normal and a low carbon vehicle. But at an additional cost of 20,000 for a car and 40,000 for a van, the funding would allow public-sector organisations to invest in a total of just 180 new green cars or 90 low- carbon vans.

In response to the FOI request, a total of 21 local authorities admitted they were running no vehicles at all on alternative fuel.

• Green cars in numbers

Only the Scottish Borders Council is close to meeting the target, where 98 per cent of its fleet is powered by bio-diesel. Midlothian Council also performed well, boasting 89 vehicles which operate on dual fuel - able to run on either petrol or liquified petroleum gas.

Moray Council, despite owning fewer than 1 per cent of vehicles which use alternative fuel sources, said it had converted two of its cars - which utilise cooking oil as fuel - in-house, as well as having bought a single electric car.

Dr Sam Gardner, climate change policy officer for WWF Scotland, said: "Our research shows that we need to see 300,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2020 to help meet our climate targets, and the public-sector fleet should lead the way.

"It is really disappointing to see such slow progress in reducing the emissions from Scotland's own public-sector vehicles.A step change in government support is required."

Jim Hume, environment spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said: "The First Minister has spoken of making Scotland a 'renewable energy powerhouse' but he would be well advised to take a look again at his government's commitment to decarbonising the public sector's vehicles."

"Scottish Labour's environment spokesman, Sarah Boyack, said: "The lack of green transportation across the public sector is disappointing."

A spokesman for Transport Scotland said the Scottish Government had held a consultation since publishing its manifesto and found that only seven of the 51 public sector bodies questioned said they believed the target should be in excess of 90 per cent by 2020.

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