Scotland’s National Transport Strategy: Is This It?

A new Transport strategy for Scotland has been launched.

“The strategy is the result of rigorous evidence review, consultation and assessment of Scotland’s needs now and in to the future. This has taken place at the same time as the Climate Emergency has been brought sharply into focus and the strategy will provide a vital foundation to address carbon reduction obligations.” Jillian Anable,Professor of Transport and Energy at The Institute for Transport Studies 

You can find it here: National Transport Strategy

A consultation has been opened to find out what the public and interested organisations think about it. It closes on 23rd of October 2019. Click this link to access it:

A Consultation on Scotland’s National Transport Strategy

The Strategy has 4 key components to :

  • promote equality
  • tackle climate change
  • help the economy to prosper
  • to improve health and wellbeing

Scotland aims to have net-zero emissions by 2045 and part of that is by aiming to phase out the need for new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032. Walking , cycling and using public transport is to be promoted.

This is already perfectly achievable for those who live in cities as long as they have no physical mobility problems and don’t live in a housing scheme miles away from shops & services.

For the vast majority of Scotland, rural and island communities where public bus services have been slashed there would need to be significant national investment in bus and train services to move people from the convenience of private car use. Ferries will be required which are not powered by fossil fuels and fixed links put in where possible.  Farm vehicles will need to be replaced and this would require huge loans/subsidies to farmers to be able to do this.

Nobody in Scotland will be disadvantaged by our transport system. This includes the young, the old, those on low incomes and disabled people. The Strategy will also account for our different regional needs to ensure that those living in rural, remote or island communities are well connected and have equitable access to services as those in the rest of the country.

What about air travel?

This accounts for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland and yet the Transport strategy  wants aviation to continue to ‘play a key role in Scotland’s connectivity’. The Scottish Government wants to increase this sector so that we have more international trade and visitors from overseas.

To ensure we continue to welcome a growing number of international visitors we need to retain our important air links and also develop new routes

How can this be compatible with tackling a global climate emergency? And the solution the Transport strategy comes up with is to explore the possibility of all electric flights to the Highlands and Islands.

I am not convinced that this Transport Strategy actually realises that there is a global climate emergency. A series of feel good platitudes about making us more active getting us out cycling and walking is hard to take seriously given our weather, terrain and lack of cycle ways. And those options only exist for those who are physically able. Lack of local services mean people are having to travel further even just to take cash out.

Many of us in rural and island communities would love to ditch the car but how then do we get to the doctor’s surgery, the library, our friend’s house or indeed to our work – especially if it is shift work?

Despite the Transport Strategy’s best intentions of promoting equality with what it proposes it will be those on low incomes in rural and island communities who will not have the variety of transport ‘options’ available to those in cities or who are comfortably well off.

There has to come a point where the infrastructure is put in nationally to enable the 2032 target to be met. It is the chicken and egg scenario – and government must take the lead. Does the devolved Scottish Government even have the resources to build and service what is required if Scotland is to have a national transport system which would go anywhere near to addressing the climate emergency we are in now ? And if they are serious about it why increase air traffic?

This Transport Strategy will neither tackle the global emergency of climate change or reduce rural and island depopulation but we will all certainly get a lot thinner searching for that elusive bus service in the depths of a Scottish winter.

As human beings, we are vulnerable to confusing the unprecedented with the improbable. In our everyday experience, if something has never happened before, we are generally safe in assuming it is not going to happen in the future, but the exceptions can kill you and climate change is one of those exceptions. Al Gore

iScot Orkney News cartoon Toyanka Wastelander Martin Laird

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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