New analysis has highlighted huge disparities in council spending on temporary traffic measures to ensure safe social distancing. While all Councils can apply for Government funding, Dundee City Council secured enough for a spend of £16-per-person, while Falkirk Council applied for just enough money for £1-per-person.

The Scottish Government created the £30m ‘Spaces for People’ pot for councils and other public bodies to fund temporary road space reallocation measures. These have so far included pop-up cycle lanes, pavement widening and roads closed to through traffic to allow safe physical distancing.

However, while councils such as Dundee City, East Lothian, and Glasgow City are spending millions on comprehensive plans to make streets safer and healthier, other councils have passed up the opportunity. East Dunbartonshire, Shetland and Orkney were the only councils not to apply for funding, although ZetTrans (Shetland’s transport partnership) received £200,000.

Falkirk Council are spending the least of every council awarded funding – a mere £1.18 per person – on improving public spaces to cope with Covid-19. Other councils introducing very few measures include Aberdeenshire, Midlothian, and North Ayrshire.

View the analysis here

Last week the Cabinet Secretary for Transport Michael Matheson also announced a £10m fund for councils to introduce bus prioritisation measures, such as bus lanes.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Air Pollution Campaigner Gavin Thomson said:

“Many of our public spaces are not sufficient to cope with a pandemic. Our pavements are too narrow to allow safe distancing, or allow cafes to offer outdoor dining. Crowding around the entrances to parks or businesses has been a big concern, and parents waiting at school gates in the months to come will also need additional space for distancing. Temporary measures such as widened pavements and pop-up cycle lanes are essential, allowing people to get around safely.

“It’s been great to see councils show innovation and ambition in making sure their places respond to the restrictions we face. But many Councils are failing to take the support on offer that could help protect their residents. As a result, there are significant regional disparities on infrastructure spending for safer walking, wheeling and cycling.

“This is about laying the foundations for a green recovery. Better, safer public places, are good for local businesses as well as protecting our health. The Scottish Government has pledged to ensure all underspend on the roads budget this year goes towards other areas like more sustainable transport. We must tackle these regional inequalities, and make sure everyone has access to the walking and cycling facilities that they need, regardless of where they live.”

“The climate emergency hasn’t gone away during this pandemic. Transport is the most polluting part of Scottish life so we know that we need to change the way we move around, to reduce climate emissions and improve air quality. This can only be achieved by investing in and prioritising public transport, walking, and cycling.”


Notes to Editors

1. The data on spending per capita in each local authority area is presented at: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1koOwehe_5qAgFwy4krHcZgCWDCpSDZxOuSx8idBo0Mk/edit?usp=sharing

2. Weekly transport statistics from Transport Scotland regularly showed big increases in walking and cycling during lockdown. https://www.transport.gov.scot/publication/covid-19-transport-trend-data-8-14-june-2020/

3. In April, Friends of the Earth Scotland welcomed the announcement of the ‘Spaces for People’ fund. It was initially £10m, and was later increased to £30m. https://foe.scot/press-release/welcome-for-road-re-allocation-measures-to-create-space-for-social-distancing/

4. The Scottish Government has awarded all of this £30m, but is aiming to ‘repurpose’ a further £8.6m from the Active Travel budget. https://www.transport.gov.scot/news/success-for-30-million-pop-up-infrastructure-initiative/

5. The measures introduced by Glasgow City Council include road closures, pavement widening, pop-up cycle lanes, and cycle parking. https://www.glasgow.gov.uk/spacesforpeople/programme

6. Transport is the most polluting sector in terms of climate emissions https://www.gov.scot/publications/scottish-greenhouse-gas-emissions-2018/pages/3/

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 5,000 local activist groups.