THE Scottish Green Party has urged ministers to make Scotland a “cycle-friendly nation” by rethinking proposed plans to cut spending on safe walking and cycling routes to schools.
Cycling, walking and safe routes funding for local authorities will be cut by £2.1 million, while spending on motorways and trunk roads is to increase by £125.5 million, according to figures collected by the party from the draft 2016/17 budget released earlier this month.
The Greens believe this is an indication that the Scottish Government is not prioritising cycling and walking, despite the benefits these have with regards to public health.
The party also questioned the Government’s refusal to provide a single budget line making clear what it is spending on cycling and said that “sustainable and active travel” will only comprise 1.6% of the entire £2.2 billion transport budget. Scottish Greens believe walking and cycling infrastructure should comprise nearer 10% of that budget.
Alison Johnstone, health spokeswoman for the Scottish Greens and MSP for Lothian, said: “Christmas will have seen a fleet of new bicycles delivered to households across Scotland but in many places we don’t have the infrastructure to truly make cycling a safe and enjoyable part of everyday life.
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“By leaving funding flat, while pumping up spending on new trunk roads and motorways, the Scottish Government is making clear that cycling and walking is not a priority despite the benefits to health and people’s pockets, and despite public demand.
“We have to remember that transport is a social justice issue. Not everyone has the money to, or wants to rely on a private car to get to places and many people would prefer increased investment in cycling, walking and public transport.
“I led Holyrood’s first debate on cycling, almost four years ago, with the parliament reaffirming the Scottish Government’s target of 10% of journeys by bike by 2020, yet we’re still at only 1%. I will continue to press the case for a transformation in funding priorities. Scotland can become a cycle-friendly nation but we need Holyrood to be bolder.”
A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government is committed to encouraging healthier and greener travel and we are investing more than £1 billion per annum to encourage people out of their cars.
“We remain committed to our shared vision of 10% of everyday journeys being made by bike by 2020 and earlier this year committed a further £3.3 million to match last year’s record investment in active travel.
“This financial year we have increased investment in active travel to £39.2 million, up from £22.95 million in 2013/14 at a time when our overall capital budget has decreased by 26%. Over and above this, behaviour change programmes through the Smarter Choices, Smarter Places programme are encouraging uptake of both sustainable and active travel.
“We recognise more can be done to keep up this momentum and that is why The Transport Minister was delighted last month to announce the Community Links Plus competition which is being managed by Sustrans and is now in the shortlist stage. This competition aims to deliver high profile, continental style infrastructure which will improve safety while also encouraging less confident cyclists to make day-to-day journeys by bike.
“All of this is delivering significant health, environment and tourism benefits to communities across the country.”