Cycle campaigners Spokes have written to the Conveners of the Scottish Parliament Transport and Finance Committees, pointing out that only 1% of the Scottish transport budget is currently spent on cycling and that “under the new government’s budget proposals this is likely to fall further”.
One of Spokes’ main proposals is that there should be an “enhanced Cycling Walking Safer Streets scheme”. The SNP Government has decided to change the way that money is given to local authorities. Previously it was common for funds to be ‘ring fenced’ giving councils clear guidance on spending priorities. (CWSS funding is still ring fenced for 08/9). Now councils are being given more freedom. One consequence of this is that in Edinburgh three School Travel Co-ordinators look like being unemployed at the end of March as the initial three year funding runs out then.
STCs work with schools helping them to develop School Transport Plans which encourage walking and cycling – habits that are likely to continue after school, leading to less traffic and healthier people.
The Government made it clear in its Concordat, that councils would still get money for these posts under the “Finance and sustainable growth” heading as they are “ROLLED UP INTO SETTLEMENT IN 2008-09” (p14). In spite of this Edinburgh (and some other councils) sees priorities differently.
In his detailed 4 page paper, Dave du Feu for Spokes points out: “Increased cycle use across Scotland for utility and leisure purposes can play a vital role in three of the biggest challenges faced by the Scottish Government – climate change emissions, obesity and congestion – all three of which in turn impact on the economy. These challenges are reflected in the National Outcomes and the National Indicators and Targets of the new government. Additionally, increased cycle use and improved local accessibility are potentially extremely valuable given growing uncertainty over oil supply and price in the future.”
Perhaps rumours that some Ministers only see cycling as a ‘leisure activity’, might be, sadly, true.
Spokes is also calling for “a new £20m pa fund for major cycle projects across Scotland”. The Government has recently decided to spend up to £4bn on a new Forth Road Bridge. Perhaps this includes the £1m or so needed for a proper/safe cycle route from Edinburgh to Fife.