Scottish Government transport staff were criticised today for taking almost twice as many international flights last year as they did five years ago when they should have been “leading by example”.
New figures also revealed Transport Scotland officials took nearly 200 domestic flights, despite the Scottish Government’s target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 75 per cent by 2030, compared with 1990 levels.
The 197 domestic flights made by officials in 2018/19 were accompanied by 110 international plane trips. These numbered among a total of 1,355 flights taken by the agency over the past five years – 872 domestic and 483 international.
The number of UK flights increased for a second year, from 132 in 2016/17 and 184 in 2017/18.
By contrast, international flights taken by the Glasgow-based agency’s staff have reduced from a peak of 155 in 2017/18.
Transport Scotland 'need to do much better'
The Scottish Liberal Democrats, who obtained the figures from a Freedom of Information request, said Transport Scotland’s travel behaviour should reflect ministers’ drive to cut carbon emissions.
The party’s transport spokesman Mike Rumbles said: “News of the climate emergency does not seem to have reached Transport Scotland.
“Every public body should be working out how they can reduce their impact on the planet and Transport Scotland in particular should be leading by example. The SNP record on the environment is one of fiddling and fudging.
“They are still flip-flopping on the Heathrow expansion, told the public they had banned fracking while arguing the opposite in court, and have utterly failed to make a dent in fuel poverty levels.
“Nobody should get a free pass, especially not Transport Scotland.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon agreed. He said: “Transport is an essential part of the carbon equation and the public sector should be leading by example in drastically reducing emissions.
“Transport Scotland need to do much better at reducing their own emissions and pursuing public policies that help everyone else reduce their transport emissions too. One return transatlantic flight releases as much carbon as heating the average home for a year.
“All Scotland’s agencies and public bodies have been asked to tell ministers when they will become zero carbon. On the basis of these figures, Transport Scotland have a lot of work to do.”
'Always mindful of carbon footprint'
The government agency said all its flights were offset by a carbon levy that collected about £40,000 a year.
Its spokesperson said: “International flights taken by our staff actually reduced by almost a third last year.
“However, it is sometimes unavoidable for officials to undertake overseas business visits to promote Scotland, strengthen international ties and advance our interests across a range of sectors.
“Our officials are always mindful of their carbon footprint and try to strike a balance between promoting our progressive policies and strategies on climate change, air quality, road safety, active travel and accessibility, and any impact on the environment.
“We take this very seriously and aim to use more sustainable forms of transport wherever possible. Civil servants must travel by the most cost-effective and time-efficient method.”
Number of flights taken in last 5 years
2014-15: Domestic - 126/ International - 59
2015-16: Domestic - 233/ International - 74
2016-17: Domestic - 132/ International - 85
2017-18: Domestic - 184/ International - 155
2018-19: Domestic - 197/ International - 110