Transport decisions are still being taken without looking at the climate impacts, despite the introduction of measures such as Strategic Environmental Assessments, Scottish Green Party Co-convener Patrick Harvie has said.
In an exclusive interview that will appear in Holyrood magazine’s upcoming manifesto series, Harvie said: “It’s as though we’re still calculating transport decisions as if it was the 1960s.” Criticising the Scottish Government’s Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG), he added: “We’ve got a mechanism for determining the costs and benefits of transport infrastructure which doesn’t take account of some of the concerns that we have nowadays about reducing carbon emissions, about localism in the economy, about trying to keep strong local economies that can maintain some cohesion rather than having all of the economic activity sending profits outside the local economy, keeping money circulating, giving people a chance to work and live close together.” Harvie also said he felt that transport decisions were often not taken for the right reasons.
“Giving local areas a pork-barrel approach ‘look what I’ve built for you’ is a really shallow way for politicians to make some of the most expensive decisions that they ever make and there is an element of pork barrel in the way that infrastructure decisions are made in Scotland,” he said.
When asked why he felt the other parties were finding it hard to grasp the challenge that transport presented to meeting emissions reductions targets, Harvie said: “I think it goes way beyond Scotland. On pretty much any other area, we talk about waste, we talk about energy use…We haven’t got to that point on transport yet, and I don’t think the UK has either.
Some European countries have, much more progressively, but the UK is still labouring under this idea that just supplying ever rising demand, meeting the demand that they project for the future, is the right way to go.” He added that while politicians may believe meeting demand was good for the economy, this was not the case in reality.
“There comes a point when having people travel ever further just to meet their basic needs for housing, jobs and markets and so on, having people spend more of their lives in traffic jams or crowded trains – that’s no longer an economic good,” he said.