Before the final Scottish budget debate and vote there were rumours that Finance Secretary John Swinney was “looking carefully” at “sustainable travel budgets”. I decided to take the advice of Spokes that a last-minute e-mail supporting a change-of-heart might still help, and sent the following e-mail to my list MSPs, using WriteToThem.
Dear Sarah Boyack, Margo MacDonald, David McLetchie, Alison Johnstone, Gavin Brown, Neil Findlay and Kezia Dugdale,
Active travel is a great idea as it achieves so many policy objectives: it is clean, it is green, it reduces congestion in towns and cities, it
can boost local economic activity, and it is healthy (active people, such as regular cyclists, live longer). In addition, people who use
active ways of travel to get to work are more productive, and it is relatively cheap and therefore has great potential to save money (the
future savings in health cost alone make worthwhile).
So please keep up the pressure on John Swinney to reverse the severe planned cuts to active travel, which also represent a breach of the
promises in the SNP manifesto.
So far I have received the following relies (in order received)-
Neil Findlay MSP (Labour):
Thanks Kim – I agree with what you say and the pressure will continue
Neil Findlay MSP for the Lothians
Alison Johnstone MSP (Green):
Thank you very much for getting in touch on this important issue. The Scottish Green MSPs have consistently called for substantially increased spending on public transport and active travel within the Scottish Government’s transport budget. I believe the Government’s spending priorities are wrong, by prioritising an absurdly expensive second road bridge across the Firth of Forth ahead of other areas, such as active travel, that would be far healthier for people, better for the environment, and reduce costs and congestion.
Our most recent manifesto included a commitment to target 10% of the transport budget towards active travel. It is vitally important to ensure that those who wish to cycle are encouraged to do so and the provision of new and maintenance of existing cycle lanes will help progress this aim. Safe streets with well-maintained pavements are required if we wish to see an increase in those walking to work and education. Street furniture should be streamlined and safer routes to school should be in operation across the school estate.
I have, and will continue to do all I can to challenge the Government, so that money within Scotland’s budget flows in a direction that improves people’s health, livelihoods and our environment. To this end I have spoken about active travel, public transport and infrastructure within a number of Parliamentary debates. Indeed I used the example of cycling in a debate with John Swinney on the Autumn Budget Statement and the Scottish Economy. I also took part in a protest against the severe cuts to funding for cycling and walking projects in the Scottish Government’s draft budget, joining a bicycle rally outside St. Andrew’s House.
My colleague Patrick Harvie also raised this issue in recent budget debates, and a meeting with John Swinney.
Please be assured of my continued support on this matter.
Margo MacDonald MSP (Independent):
Dear Mr Harding,
Margo MacDonald MSP has received a large number of messages concerning funding for active travel initiatives. Unfortunately she is currently in hospital and will not be present for today’s debate.
Office of Margo MacDonald MSP
Sorry to hear that Margo, I hope you are able to leave hospital soon.
Gavin Brown MSP (Conservative):
Dear Mr Harding
The Scottish Conservatives are supportive of cycling and fully understand the wider benefits both to public health and the environment.
I have reviewed the draft budget and note that the budget line for ‘support for sustainable and active travel’ decreases in 2012/13 to £16m before increasing to £25m in 2013/14.
It is not clear to me why this budget line is slashed so heavily for the next financial year. I have asked my colleague Alex Johnstone, who sits on the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee, to look into this and establish why it is happening.
Thank you for taking the time to contact me to voice your concerns.
GAVIN BROWN MSP
Followed by (10/2/0212)
On Wednesday the Cabinet Secretary announced an extra £4million next year, £5m for 2013/14 and £4m for 2014/15.
This means next year’s Budget is still decreasing although subsequent years are better.
I haven’t yet worked out the exact percentages but I suspect you are correct about their breach of a manifesto commitment.
These last two replies from Gavin Brown are interesting, I shall post up any further replies as I receive them.