Nicola Sturgeon’s aim for petrol and diesel free motoring has been questioned despite increased take up of a finance scheme to buy electric vehicles.
The Scottish Government has announced plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2032 and has introduced an electric vehicle loan scheme to encourage drivers to take up environmental motoring.
The scheme had to be closed early this year after being oversubscribed and plans are being considered for expanding it next year. However, concern has been raised about the relatively small number of vehicles involved with only 500 ordinary motorists having benefited from the project to date. The majority of new cars, however, are now leased through PCP finance deals rather than bought outright.
Data retrieved by the Scottish Conservatives found that 214 loan applications were made in the last year for the scheme, which hands out interest free loans of up to £35,000.
The scheme was launched in 2011 and the first few years of its existence saw a very low take-up with just 12 loans being issued in 2012/13 and six the following year.
Yesterday Transport Scotland pointed out that the number of successful applications had increased almost every year since its launch.
But Conservative shadow environment secretary Donald Cameron said the figures showed Scotland was not on course to comply with its ambition of getting petrol and diesel cars off the road.
The Conservatives pointed out that trials are due to start later this year in Glasgow for a proposal that will see Scotland’s four largest cities have low emission trial zones by 2020.
The Tories also questioned the effectiveness of getting taxi drivers on board with the statistics showing there had been just 166 Hackney applications in the past seven years – a figure that was in addition to the 500.
Mr Cameron said: “The SNP is completely out of step with its own policy here. It is miles away from being able to declare Scotland diesel and petrol free by 2032, which will in turn render low emission zone trials in Scotland’s main cities utterly worthless. The SNP has been completely irresponsible when it comes to this policy. Instead of working with the UK government, the rest of Europe, and even the industry itself, it’s brought in its own fancy target just to be different.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said the number of applications had gone up. He said: “ “The Energy Saving Trust, which administers the loan on behalf of Transport Scotland, has reported that the scheme is regularly oversubscribed and, in February alone, 101 new loan applications were received, totalling more than £2.8 million.”
He added that the Scottish Government was considering increasing funding for 2018/19.
This article was amended on May 7 to reflect the fact that the electric vehicle loan scheme was oversubcribed last year and plans are being considered to expand it in order to meet demand.