Funding for green vehicle loan scheme slashed

SCOTLAND’S planned “electric revolution” faces being “short-circuited” because funding for a green vehicle loan scheme has been slashed, campaigners have warned.

The number of charging points is due to rise from 70 to 240 next month. Picture: Robert Perry
The number of charging points is due to rise from 70 to 240 next month. Picture: Robert Perry
The number of charging points is due to rise from 70 to 240 next month. Picture: Robert Perry

Businesses that had been approved for help from the Scottish Government to buy electric vehicles have been told their loans have been shelved because of a lack of cash.

The news comes months after transport minister Keith Brown announced a Scotland-wide network of charging points so the country could lead the world in electric vehicles.

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The number of points is due to increase from 70 to 240 next month as part of plans to site them every 50 miles on trunk roads.

Brown said this was part of an “electric revolution” and he looked forward “to the day when the only vehicles on Scotland’s roads are electric”.

The low-carbon transport loan scheme offers up to £50,000 interest-free to “help organisations to reduce the carbon impact and fuel costs of their transport and travel arrangements”.

It covers electric vehicles and other measures such as video conferencing, cycle facilities and fuel monitoring for vehicle fleets.

However, the scheme’s budget has been cut, with a total of £210,000 available for loans this year compared with the £333,000 paid out last year. The Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency, which funds the scheme, said only about seven loans could be made this year, compared with 19 offered in 2012-13.

Jo Hunt, who owns Knockfarrel Produce, near Dingwall, had his loan approved, only to then be told there was no money left. He had sought a £20,000 loan for an electric van to deliver fruit and vegetables to restaurants, shops, farmers markets and schools, undergoing a detailed assessment over nearly a year.

However, Hunt has now received a letter from the Energy Saving Trust, which runs the scheme for Transport Scotland, stating: “Unfortunately, due to a reduced level of 
funding for loans this year, we are unable to make any further loan offers at this time.”

Hunt said: “Through a combination of organic soil management, tree planting and renewable energy production, our business locks up or avoids the emission of the equivalent of 110 tonnes of CO2 every year.

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“Our next development is to launch a food delivery service, and as we wanted to emit 
no carbon with our deliveries as well as our food, we approached the Energy Savings Trust about an interest-free loan to buy an electric vehicle.

“They had been encouraging at every step of the way, but 
after ten months of discussion, a detailed transport audit, a recommendation for a loan and filling out lots of forms we have been stopped in our tracks.

“It’s more than frustrating, it’s a waste of a lot of time and is preventing us expanding our business.”

Friends of the Earth Scotland said cutting the loans 
undermined a key plank of government policy.

Co-ordinator Mary Church said: “The Scottish Government is short-circuiting its own strategy by cutting funding for electric vehicle loans, which is their flagship plan for reducing climate emissions from the transport sector.”

Transport Scotland admitted there had been a funding squeeze but said it was supporting emissions reductions in other ways.

A spokeswoman said: “The fund started as a pilot in 2011-12 and is subject to ongoing evaluation and development. Due to a high number of recent applications, there are a number of applications in a waiting list for funds.

“Under the very tight financial settlement that the Scottish Government is working under, we have to balance resources available to different programmes.

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“The loan scheme has proven popular and unfortunately no further funding is available at this time.”

Twitter: @AlastairDalton