Environmental groups question direction of Scottish Government transport policy
Environmental groups have questioned the Scottish Government’s transport policy after new figures show car use is at its highest ever level, while bus use has declined.
The statistics show 44.8bn vehicle kilometres were travelled on Scotland’s roads in 2014 – an increase of two per cent in the space of a year and five per cent above the highest recorded level.
Only 30 per cent of journeys to work were by public or active travel in 2014, according to the figures.
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Transport minister Derek Mackay said the statistics “provide an encouraging insight into areas in which we are performing well, together with indications where more work will be beneficial in continuing to deliver our transport vision”.
Mackay said the increase in car registrations is a reflection of “the on-going economic recovery in Scotland”.
But Friends of the Earth (FoE) Scotland said the new statistics are proof Scotland is “motoring towards more air pollution and climate change”.
SNP plans to scrap Air Passenger Duty were also questioned after new figures showed airport passenger numbers have increased in spite of the tax, growing by by 3.6 per cent in 2014 and by 15 per cent since 2010.
Mike Robinson, a Stop Climate Chaos Scotland board member who sits on the Scottish Government Air Passenger Duty (APD) stakeholder forum, said: “Yet again, these figures reinforce the fact that it is utterly unnecessary to abandon APD - the tax generates £230m per year for the Scottish Government and hasn’t inhibited air passenger numbers.
“It’s a tax that customers are prepared to tolerate, in an industry that is regarded as under-taxed, so why scrap it?
“Air travel has the highest climate emissions of any form of transport and emissions from the sector have risen significantly over the past 20 years. We should use Air Passenger Duty powers to reduce overall climate emissions.”
Mackay said increases in rail use and cycling are proof government investment is paying dividends.
He said: “The Scottish Government is currently delivering the most extensive investment programme in our railways ever, worth £5 billion up to 2019.
“This is ensuring more people than ever are able to make use of Scotland’s railways. By continuing to offer customers reliable and safe services, a range of fare options and real value for money, more than 92 million passenger journeys were made on ScotRail services last year – an increase of six million.”
Mackay said the government is committed to supporting bus services through the £240m invested in the Bus Service Operators Grant and concessionary bus travel.
He added: “One of the most encouraging signs is the fact almost three quarters of all journeys to school are made by active or public transport means. This provides a real opportunity to encourage the next generation to leave the car behind, while providing environmental and health benefits now.”
FoE Scotland air pollution campaigner Emilia Hanna said: “The statistics reveal that Scotland is motoring towards more air pollution and climate change. Only 30 per cent of are Scots commuting to work by public transport, walking or cycling, the same level as a decade ago.
“Since 2009 the number of bus passengers has actually contracted by almost ten per cent.
“The Scottish Government last week passed a budget that commits less than two per cent of transport cash to walking and cycling. This falls far short of what is required for the Government to deliver on its commitment to see ten per cent of journeys made by bike by 2020.”