Friends of the Earth Scotland and Transform Scotland, the sustainable transport alliance, have today (Wednesday 18 January) criticised the Scottish Government’s presentation of its Future Transport Fund as a “boost for sustainable transport” when it is, in fact, confirming plans to reduce investment in rail freight and active travel (walking and cycling).

Today’s announcement from Transport Minister Keith Brown sees funding for Freight Facilities Grants fall from £2m in 2011-12 to £0.75m in 2012-13: a cut of over 60%. It is further expected that the finalised Scottish Budget, which is likely to be announced this week, will see overall investment in active travel (walking and cycling) fall by around a third.

Transform Scotland Director Colin Howden said:

“The SNP manifesto presented the Future Transport Fund as new resources to deliver on sustainable transport. Instead what Scottish Ministers have announced are severe cuts. This is simply budget cuts repackaged in the hope that no-one will notice. Scottish Ministers have remarkable gall to attempt to present budget cuts as a ‘boost for sustainable transport'”.

“Scottish Ministers will doubtless try to pass off these cuts as somehow the fault of the UK Government. That is complete rubbish. The overall transport budget is due to increase, not fall, between 2011-12 and 2012-13, and so it is entirely within the power of Scottish Ministers not to make these cuts. Unfortunately, they have decided instead to slash funding for the most sustainable and healthy forms of transport and take forward a massive road building programme instead.”

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Chief Executive, Stan Blackley, said:

“There seems to us to have been some liberal use of smoke and mirrors here. In making this announcement, Scottish Ministers seem to be reintroducing funds that they had previously planned to cut, or re-packaging existing funding as new. This is highly disappointing. Properly funding active and sustainable travel would help improve public health and help reduce carbon emissions at very low cost. Unfortunately, today’s announcement will do little towards either of these worthwhile aims.”

“Scottish Ministers are also wrong to insinuate that investment in sustainable transport is somehow less beneficial for the economy. The multi-billion pound new Forth Crossing is being built by a consortium of foreign construction companies. This is money lost to the Scottish economy. Investment in active and sustainable travel would, by the projects’ local nature, see almost all of the economic benefits retained in the Scottish economy, as the work would be carried out by local authorities and local companies.”

Looking forward to the publication of the Scottish Budget, Colin Howden concluded:

“We’ll have to wait until the final version of the Scottish Budget is published to see whether the SNP intends to break its manifesto promise to increase the percentage of its transport budget that will go to sustainable transport. In the September 2011 Draft Budget, the budgets for investment in buses, railways and ferries were all due to face cuts, in real terms, in order that the SNP could fund its insane road-building programme. Despite the SNP manifesto promise for sustainable transport, Scottish Ministers appear determined to push ahead with a 15% increase in the already massive roads budget. If they continue to press on with these policies, the Ministers can kiss goodbye to their claims to responsibility in tackling climate change.”

ENDS

For media enquiries, please contact: Per Fischer, Press Office, Friends of the Earth Scotland t: 0131 243 2719 e: pfischer@foe-scotland.org.uk

Notes to Editors

1. Transport Scotland press release: £50M boost for sustainable transport
www.transportscotland.gov.uk/news/Future-Transport-Fund

2. Transform Scotland claims that the SNP has reneged on its manifesto promise (May 2011) to increase investment in sustainable transport in the Draft Budget published in September 2011. In its manifesto for the 2011 elections, the SNP said “[we] will continue to increase the proportion of transport spending that goes on low-carbon, active and sustainable travel.” But in September 2011, only four months later, the Draft Budget 2012-13 announced cuts for sustainable travel, with a particularly severe cut for the active travel (calculated by ‘Spokes’ to be around 33%). Yet the roads budget went up by 15%.

3. Transform Scotland claims that it is the Scottish Government’s decision to cut investment in active travel — not the UK Government’s. Scottish Ministers’ standard response is that it’s the UK Government’s fault in imposing budget cuts on Scotland. The overall Scottish transport budget is scheduled to go up between 2011-12 and 2012-13 (from £1803.7m to £1838.2m). Cuts to active travel are directly the result of Scottish Government decisions. It is simply misleading for Scottish Ministers to claim that it is the fault of the UK Government.

4. Transform Scotland is the national sustainable transport alliance, bringing together rail, bus and shipping operators, local authorities, national environment and conservation groups, businesses and local transport groups.
www.transformscotland.org.uk/members.aspx

5. Friends of the Earth Scotland is * Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation * An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland * Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 77 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups – covering every continent.
www.foe-scotland.org.uk