Ahead of the Scottish Budget, Friends of the Earth Scotland are calling for a transformation in Scottish Government spending priorities to tackle the climate emergency. Campaigners highlighted the dualling of the A9 and A96, which have cost billions so far and must be stopped and the savings diverted to fund sustainable transport, given the context of the climate emergency.

Totalling the last 3 budgets, the Scottish Government has committed over £2.5billion to spending on Motorways and Trunk Roads. Transport is the most polluting sector in terms of climate emissions and illegal air pollution levels are being recorded in Scottish cities years after a legal deadline was due to be met.

The Scottish Government has no hope of meeting their target of 10% of journeys by bicycle by 2020 and they have presided over a 100 million fall in bus passenger numbers in the last decade. Campaigners say this shows they’ve got their transport priorities wrong with devastating consequences for the climate, public health, congestion and access to transport. Budget investments should include:

  • Money to extend free bus travel to more people
  • Support for Councils looking to use new powers to run bus services.
  • Increased investment in walking and cycling infrastructure

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Air Pollution Campaigner Gavin Thomson commented,

“The world is in the middle of a climate crisis. The Scottish Government has recognised the emergency but now needs to align their spending commitments with their rhetoric. We urgently need to stop burning fossil fuels and road transport is one of our biggest climate polluters.

“Emissions from road transport are higher than they were in 1990. Next to nothing is being done to make the necessary changes to our transport system. The Scottish Government is reckless spending billions on new roads, which only create more traffic and more emissions, while the total annual budget for walking and cycling is a mere £80 million each year.

“We can’t keep spending money on new roads whilst asking people not to drive on them. It defies both climate science and common sense. If we’re looking for the necessary investments to reduce our emissions – we need to look no further than how we travel. This year’s budget must commit to halting all new major road projects and diverting the huge cash saved into public transport, walking and cycling.

“This year’s budget must avoid any more incentives that will prolong the life of the fossil fuel industry. If the Scottish Government isn’t up to this climate challenge, action to end fossil fuel use must be a red line for any opposition parties considering supporting this budget.”

Notes to Editors

1.Previous ‘Motorways and Trunk Road’ budget lines

2017/18: £967million
2018/19: £831.5million
2019/20: £833.1million

Page 145 of the Scottish Budget 2019-20 includes these figures. https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/corporate-report/2018/12/scottish-budget-2019-20/documents/scottish-budget-2019-20/scottish-budget-2019-20/govscot%3Adocument/scottish-budget-2019-20.pdf

2. The Scottish Government will miss their 2020 target to have 10% of trips in Scotland made by bicycle. https://www.scotsman.com/news/transport/10-per-cent-cycling-target-unlikely-to-be-met-ministers-concede-1-4949530

3. Bus passenger numbers have fallen by 100 million in the past decade. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-47388550

4. This SPICE blog shows explores how public transport has declined as prices have soared over the past 20 years.

5. Transport is Scotland’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter (page 13). https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/statistics/2019/06/scottish-greenhouse-gas-emissions-2017/documents/scottish-greenhouse-gas-emissions-2017/scottish-greenhouse-gas-emissions-2017/govscot%3Adocument/scottish-greenhouse-gas-emissions-2017.pdf 

6. Friends of the Earth Scotland ranked the country’s most polluted streets for 2019. The results show illegal pollution levels with many areas suffering from higher pollution than in previous years. https://foe.scot/press-release/revealed-scotlands-most-polluted-streets-2019/

7. 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, 75 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.