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Published: 21st MAY 2021

The election dust has settled: It’s now time to act

Following the Scottish Parliament elections John Lauder, ߣߣƵ Deputy CEO and Executive Director for Scotland, discusses the important choice that the newly formed Scottish Government has to make in regards to active travel in the upcoming Parliamentary Session.

With the election over, and the Scottish Government’s new Cabinet decided, it is now time for us to look ahead and see what the new parliamentary session has to focus on.

Young girl cycling with pink helmet. Someone riding a bike in foreground and bikes in background.

By working constructively, ߣߣƵ Scotland along with our active travel partners, will be working in partnership with the Government and Parliament to deliver but also hold to account their active travel commitments.

Welcoming the Scottish Government Cabinet

Firstly, I want to congratulate Michael Matheson MSP on retaining his Cabinet Secretary position with responsibility for transport.

We had a very constructive relationship with Mr Matheson and his team at Transport Scotland throughout the last parliamentary session and I trust this will continue in the months and years to come.

It is exciting that Mr Matheson is heading up a newly formed Net Zero department; this is a new start for transport, which as a sector contributes over 36% of Scotland’s carbon emissions, a figure that is rising annually.

I would also like to welcome the appointment of a new Transport Minister, and look forward to introducing ourselves to Graeme Dey MSP in the weeks ahead.

The need for change

Scotland, along with the rest of the world, finds itself at a cross roads.

We are living in a climate crisis, with rising emissions from transport making up the largest proportion of Scotland’s carbon emissions.

Many people in Scotland also suffer from poor physical and mental health due to inactivity and living in a neighbourhood where the ability to freely and safely walk, wheel (mobility aids, prams, scooters etc) and cycle are difficult.

Additionally, levels of social inequality have been, and continue to be, exacerbated by the pandemic.

People walking and chatting

We will make sure active travel remains high in the transport agenda.

The case for everyday walking, wheeling and cycling

Everyday walking, wheeling and cycling can help tackle all these issues.

To make this a reality however, Scotland needs protected active travel infrastructure (like the cycle lanes you might see across Northern Europe) traffic calmed streets, public spaces that are safe and well-lit and programmes that support people to change their travel behaviour.

Ultimately we need to reduce the use of cars for everyday short journeys, even electric ones, by making it easier to walk, wheel and cycle.

We know from our research that one-third of people in Scotland do not have access to a car.

They deserve a better deal from our transport networks.

And we know that children growing up in Scotland’s most deprived areas are three times more likely to be killed or seriously injured by a vehicle than their counterparts living in the wealthiest neighbourhoods.

This also needs to change.

Finally, people who use a wheelchair or other mobility devices (in other words those who ‘wheel’) and those who are hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired need much better public spaces in which to move.

We therefore need to redesign our towns and cities and our rural roads to make them places intended for everyone, irrespective of age, disability or income.

Not just those who can afford or are able to use cars.

Investing in a greener, healthier future

With all these issues to tackle it has never been more important than now to invest more in active travel.

We are encouraged by commitments made by all parties, prior to the election, to increase investment in active travel and increase the delivery of active travel infrastructure.

The Government now has a choice at the crossroads.

Does it go down the status-quo route, or does it take the bold step to go down the more expensive yet innovative and transformational one, promised in their manifesto?

It is imperative that the latter happens and that this process starts now rather than in a few years- the climate crisis demands it.

By working constructively, ߣߣƵ Scotland along with our active travel partners, will be working in partnership with the Government and Parliament to deliver but also hold to account their active travel commitments.

We will also make sure active travel remains high in the transport agenda, because we know active travel has a vital role in helping us all deliver a fair and sustainable green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

We look forward to working with all political parties in the months and years to come to get this done.

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