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22 October 2019
Scottish Government urged to end road building

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Scottish Government urged to end road building

A group of eight walking and cycling organisations have urged the government to end road building and focus on greener alternatives to cars

Eight walking and cycling organisations have called on the Scottish Government to end road building and prioritise environmentally friendly transport instead.

The groups recommended the government halt investment in the creation of new trunk roads, arguing that money would be better spent on meeting targets on cutting carbon emissions.

Instead, they said that improvements in public transport, access to bikes and walking routes and changes to development planning were needed over “expensive” road building projects.  

A total of six recommendations were made by the organisations while giving critical feedback on the government’s National Transport Strategy, which was released for consultation this summer.

Cycling Scotland, Cycling UK, Forth Environment Link, Living Streets, Paths for All, Ramblers Scotland, Sustrans Scotland and Transform Scotland submitted joint responses to the consultation, which ends on 23 October.

The National Transport Strategy is the Scottish Government’s 20-year plan for a more “sustainable, inclusive and accessible transport system” where the top priority is “protecting our climate and improving lives”.

The strategy draws attention to the increase in climate emissions from road and air travel, which contributes most of Scotland’s air pollution and greenhouse gasses, and acknowledges that the planet is facing a climate emergency.

Included in the strategy is a “transport hierarchy” that places walking, wheeling (for wheelchair users) and cycling above road transport in the government’s priorities.

Speaking about the joint statement, Sustrans deputy CEO John Lauder said: “The new National Transport Strategy takes a big step forward. The way we travel plays a huge role in our lives, so we’re especially pleased to see the strategy highlight the role transport can play in health and wellbeing.

“We know that walking, cycling and public transport are best placed to deliver the aims of the new strategy, and these six priorities should be the focus to make it a success.

“This includes an end to expensive new road building schemes in order to tackle the climate emergency - this money can be better spent on sustainable, healthy alternatives.”

Clara Walker, executive director of Forth Environment Link (FEL), said:  “FEL believes that by continuing to strengthen our national cycling and walking ambitions we will not only see improvements to our environment but also to public health.

“By increasing opportunities and funding for cycling and walking alongside improvements in the public transport network we will support our communities to make affordable and informed choices around how they travel.

“We are pleased to see the National Transport Strategy looking to strengthen integrated transport options.  Those particularly in rural communities who experience higher public transport costs, will be able to look at multiple modes of transport as a real possibility and leave the car at home.”

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson and Rural Economy Minister Fergus Ewing have both spoken recently on the need for road development.

Speaking at a Holyrood fringe event at the recent SNP party conference, Matheson said that road building was “not a contradiction to climate targets”.

At the same event, Ewing said: “Whether cars are powered by petrol diesel or electricity or, indeed, hydrogen, we will still need, in rural Scotland, cars. Cars are still a necessity not a luxury and I think we have to recognise that.”

He added that he would make “no apology” about continuing with the dualling of the A9 because it was a matter of safety.

Matheson said that “road investment will still be needed no matter what”.

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