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A Quick chance for more cycle cash in Scotland?

A Quick chance for more cycle cash in Scotland?

Spokes the Lothian Cycle Campaign group is always on the look out for opportunities to increase the funding of everyday cycling in Scotland. So when they spotted that the Scottish Government is about to receive a £213m boost as a result of the UK Chancellor’s Autumn Budget Statement (thanks to the so-called “Barnett consequentials”). Finance Secretary John Swinney MSP has said £125m of it will go to the NHS, but the remainder is not yet allocated. As the Scottish government will decide very soon, possibly in the next few days or certainly the next few weeks, how to use this money. They suggested that people should write to their MSP’s to suggest that some of this money should be used to invest in cycling infrastructure.

I took the opportunity write to all my MSP’s, and this is what I wrote:

Dear MSPs,

Repeated studies have shown that increasing rates of Active Travel, walking and cycling, for short journeys (and the majority of every day journeys are under 5 miles), have a positive impact on the health and well being of the population as a whole. Not only is Active Travel good for health, it is good for the economy too. Not only does it provide jobs directly, but also people who arrive at work via active means are more productive and take less sick leave. Infrastructure improvements to encourage Active Travel are also cheap and quick to implement, but they do need to be properly funded to achieve their full potential.

In his speech on 9th October 2014 the Finance Secretary, John Swinney, made a promise that the Scottish Government would spend “an additional
£10 million next year for cycling and walking infrastructure”. However, it has subsequently emerged that £5m had in fact been pre-announced in June and that the other £5m is not actually for is not even for walking and cycling. It is for car sharing, bus ticketing incentives, bus shelters and so on, not directly on Active Travel. Therefore unless Mr Swinney is able to find the additional money from somewhere else his promise to Parliament will have been bogus.

The UK government has recently announced £214m additional cycling investment in England. At the same time the Scottish Government will receive £123m in Barnet consequentials, this gives Mr Swinney the opportunity to make good on his promise to Parliament made on the 9th October 2014. Please urge Mr Swinney to take this opportunity to make good on his promise.

Yours sincerely,



I will list the replies as the come in below:

The first reply comes from Cameron Buchanan MSP:

Dear Ms Harding,

Thank you very much for your message. I agree with you about the importance of cycling – it should be encouraged wherever possible. I also agree that misleading announcements by the SNP, of which there are many, should be called out.

I will continue to advocate cycle-friendly policies in Parliament and in this your points are most welcome. Furthermore, I will be questioning the Scottish Government in Parliament today, when I will ask if they have any plans to increase investment in cycling infrastructure.

I hope you find this response helpful.


Second reply, was some what longer, from Sarah Boyack MSP:

Thank you for your e-mail about funding for cycling infrastructure. The Scottish Government has recently announced its draft budget for 2015/16 which gives an indication on its intentions for cycling and active travel. I believe that making active travel options more accessible for everyone could help address the physical and mental health problems we face in Scotland. My party, Scottish Labour supports active travel and the encouragement of walking and cycling, as well as more generally the culture of active travel.

We are pleased that in the draft budget for 2015/16, the total budget for sustainable and active travel has increased by over 40% in real terms. We welcome this commitment. However, at this stage we don’t know the details of what this money will be spent on. We are pushing the SNP Government to confirm how this money will be allocated and, in particular, how much of it will be allocated to cycling infrastructure.

Under the transport portfolio, £25m is earmarked for support for sustainable and active travel while local government will be provided with £8m grant funding for cycling walking and safer routes. In its submission to the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee, Spokes also identified funding for active travel within the Future Transport Fund, Forth Bridge construction and trunk road budget lines. Based on Spokes’ estimates, the total funding specifically targeted at active travel in 2015/16 will be £37m, around £28m of which will be spent on infrastructure. This compares with Spokes estimates of £40.3m (total) and £36m (infrastructure) in 2014/15. That’s a big drop in investment.

I want to see increased, sustained year on year investment in infrastructure to encourage cycling so I welcome Edinburgh’s leadership with the council’s commitment to ensure continual, increasing investment in cycling. In 2012/13, 5% of the total transport budget went on cycling investment. In 2014/15, that had increased to 7%.

The Scottish Government needs to put in place proper funding and sustained investment. We need both dedicated facilities for cycling and better integration across our trunk and local road networks. Part of this process must be to ensure that the needs of cyclists are designed into our roads maintenance, our local transport strategies and our planning decisions so that routes and dedicated infrastructure such as parking facilities are designed with the needs of cyclists in mind.

In my campaign to be Scottish Labour Leader I published 100 Ideas for a New Scotland and suggested that we should also be looking at more segregated cycle routes.

Alongside considering cycling as a mode of transport, there are interesting opportunities to take a broader approach. I’m keen that the debate considers how cycling can help to address other Scottish Government goals such as physical activity targets and legacy initiatives attached to the 2014 Commonwealth Games as opportunities to set clear targets on cycling participation. Promoting cycling amongst school students is also crucial.

We need to promote safer road cycling opportunities generally as well as targeting specific cycle interest developments for sport and tourism.

We need a step change to deliver the increases in cycle participation that the Scottish Government want to achieve under the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland and I, along with my Labour Party colleagues will continue to press for investment in facilities and initiatives to make this a reality.


Third reply from Alison Johnstone MSP

Dear Kim

Thank you for contacting me regarding active travel funding.

You may be aware that there is a Government debate this afternoon on Active Travel. I have lodged an amendment to the Government motion (copy below) and I am pleased that it has been selected for debate. I will be taking part in this afternoon’s debate, so you will be able to read my contribution in the Official Report, or watch the debate live on the Parliament website.

*S4M-11980.2 Alison Johnstone: Active Travel—As an amendment to motion S4M-11980 in the name of Derek Mackay (Active Travel), insert at end “; reaffirms the Scottish Government’s target of 10% of journeys to be made by bike by 2020; notes the estimate by Spokes that active travel funding in the 2015-16 draft budget is lower than in the previous year; calls on the Scottish Government to reverse this cut and substantially increase funding for active travel; notes the ongoing debate and research into the introduction of presumed liability in relation to road accidents, and urges local authorities to meet growing demand for high-quality walking and cycling infrastructure, extend 20mph speed limits in built-up areas and provide walking and cycling training opportunities to every child in Scotland”.

I have received emails from a number of constituents who share your concerns. My colleague Patrick Harvie MSP is meeting the Finance Secretary tomorrow to discuss the budget and he will be taking the opportunity to press him on active travel funding.

Please do not hesitate to contact me again if I can be of further assistance.

Best wishes



Who will be next?


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Open letter to MSPs on Active Travel

Open letter to MSPs on Active Travel

Having made suggestions as to how to include active travel in party manifestos (here and here) and the Scottish Budget coming up, I though it time to write to my MSPs about this issue. So I sent this message to them via WriteToThem.

Dear Sarah Boyack, Neil Findlay, Margo MacDonald, Alison Johnstone, Kezia Dugdale, David McLetchie, Gavin Brown, and Marco Biagi,

As you know, I am keen to see an increase in Active Travel, so welcomed the recent announcement of an additional £6m to be spent on encouraging cycling. Although I was rather disappointed to hear that it was to be spread over two years and that £500,000 will be wasted on the “Give me space” campaign (Where is the research that this sort of campaign produces any long term benefit? Surely policy should be based on sound evidence?). The small increase in funding is a long way short of the level of funding needed to achieve the CAPS target of 10% of all journeys by 2020. In order to reach this target, spending needs to be at least £25 per head of population, which is rather more than the 50p per head which has just been announced.

The problem with this approach is that nowhere enough is being put into actually making the roads safe for people to cycle. The economic and social benefits of increasing levels of Active Travel are well known. When the economic analysis of the English Cycling Demonstration Towns was carried out, it was found that the overall benefit-cost ratio was 19:1 (with the bulk of the benefit coming from health improvements). This is significantly greater than any of the high-cost road projects which the Scottish Government is currently investing. It is in contrast to the claims that “We are using every possible opportunity to support economic recovery, create growth and maximise the effect of every pound spent”. If this were the case, the Scottish Government should be putting far more into active, sustainable travel and cutting back on the vanity projects.

There are claims that it takes years for the health benefits to be seen, but these clams are not supported by the medical literature. There are an increasing number of papers which show that when sedentary, often over weight patients are encouraged to take regular exercise their health shows improvements within weeks. Like wise with air pollution, there is plenty of evidence to show that reducing motor vehicle traffic dramatically improves air quality and this impacts on people health. Recent studies from China have shown that the improvements to air quality prior to and during the Beijing Olympics, there was an clear improvement in the health of people living in Beijing. That this declined again after the Olympics ended as air quality declined following the restrictions on emissions.

Scotland currently has one of the worst health records in Europe, twenty years ago this place was taken by Finland. Now Finland has a good health record with some of the healthiest citizens in Europe, they made the change by encouraging people to eat healthily and take regular exercise. Currently 10% of all journeys in Finland are made by bicycle, they improved the health of the nation by encouraging healthy eating and regular exercise. Active Travel is an important part of the mix in encouraging regular exercise, it makes it easy and also make life more pleasant for everyone. At a time when resources are being squeezed, it is better that money is spent to benefit the greatest number of people. Improving infrastructure to make Active Travel safe, easy and convenient, can improve the health of the whole nation. Whereas spending billions of pounds to reduce the journey time between Perth and Inverness by 12 minutes is a waste of money.

Please ask the Finance and Transport Minsters to support Active Travel and stop wasting money on nonsensical road schemes which offer very low social and economic returns.

Yours sincerely,

Kim Harding


The reply I have received so far are given below in the order in which they were received. The first was from Neil Findlay (Lab):

Thanks Kim, I too believe that active travel is better than spending money on Tarmac and road building and will speak to colleagues about this in the run up to the budget.


Next was Alison Johnstone (Green):

Dear Kim

Thank you very much for getting in touch on this important issue. As we work closely together, you know that the Scottish Green MSPs have consistently called for substantially increased spending on public transport and active travel within the Scottish Government’s transport budget and the levels announced are, indeed, far below what we need. 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, as you know, I have spoken about active travel, public transport and infrastructure within a number of Parliamentary debates. I hope that our new-ish Cross Party Group on Cycling can act as a focus for these messages to the Government.

Please be assured of my continued support on this matter.

Yours sincerely



So far Sarah Boyack’s (Lab) staff have acknowledged my letter twice, but Sarah herself has yet to reply, which is unusual and has now sent a pdf rely.

The most recent reply has been from Marco Biagi (SNP)

Dear Mr Harding,

Thank you again for raising this issue, and there is indeed much in your email that I agree with. As you know I was involved in the parliamentary side of securing the first additional £13m and indeed also this further £6m. I spoke on Thursday in Perth [at the SNP party conference] to many of my colleagues about the importance of creating foot-friendly cities both in terms of walking and cycling, and I will continue to work in Parliament toward that end also. I do believe the necessary framework is now in place, provided local authorities seek to show leadership. I think we can also both agree that neither of us would object to increased resourcing of the plan as set out.

Marco Biagi


I will add further replies as I receive them.


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