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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Meeting of the Parliament 18 June 2019

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Portfolio Question Time, Cycling Action Plan, Business Motion, Planning (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 (Day 1), Business Motion, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time, Unforgotten Forces Consortium


Cycling Action Plan

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani)

The next item of business is a statement by Michael Matheson on the cycling action plan for Scotland. The cabinet secretary will take questions at the end of his statement, so there should be no interventions or interruptions.


The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity (Michael Matheson)

I welcome this opportunity to update Parliament on the cycling action plan for Scotland and the work that we are doing in partnership to realise the active travel vision. The Government remains strongly committed to delivering an active nation, and the vision of Scotland’s communities being shaped around people, with walking and cycling the most popular choices for everyday short journeys.

The “Cycling Action Plan for Scotland” was originally published in 2010. It set out a shared vision that, by 2020, 10 per cent of all journeys in Scotland would be by bike. That vision was intended to be bold, aspirational and challenging. We have seen significant progress in some areas, such as cycle commuting in Edinburgh, which is now at 9.8 per cent. However, progress towards the overall figure has been slow, and it is unlikely to be met by 2020. We recognised some time ago that the speed of change was not good enough. That is why, last year, we doubled Transport Scotland’s active travel budget from £39 million to £80 million.

In order to make best use of that investment to bring about the transformative change that is needed, we are working with our partners to develop a monitoring framework. It will define a range of important outcomes, including to ensure that cycling is accessible to all, and to improve safety, health, the economy and the environment. The framework will be a key new measure to drive forward active travel policy, and it will inform on-going work with our partners on developing a reliable and nationally consistent way of measuring progress towards 2020. We are also undertaking a broad programme of analytical work and engagement with our delivery partners to better understand where we and others are succeeding in making progress, and to apply those lessons elsewhere.

With the doubling of Transport Scotland’s active travel budget, we have levels of investment in active travel that match our ambitions. Including match funding from local authorities, Scotland’s investment in walking and cycling in 2018-19 was £135 million, which is more than £25 per capita. That is far more investment than there is in the rest of the United Kingdom, and a similar level of investment to that of our northern European neighbours, such as the Netherlands and Denmark.

As well as our £80 million of active travel funding, we have allocated a further £5 million for sustainable travel behaviour change projects. We also offer £950,000 worth of loan funding for electric bikes, and we have secured a further £7.6 million from the European regional development fund for low carbon and active travel hubs. We have used those increased budgets to step up support for local authorities to build safe, segregated walking and cycling infrastructure, and to expand and improve our behaviour change programme. That integrated approach is crucial—evidence shows that combining training and advocacy with high-quality infrastructure and places that are designed for people is the best way to enable more people to walk and cycle for everyday journeys.

We see some signs of progress. As well as the increase in cycling in Edinburgh, we have seen similar increases in Glasgow, Moray and Highland council areas, and 10 per cent of people who live in small remote towns cycle at least once a week as a means of transport.

Since 2011, more than a quarter of a million schoolchildren have participated in Cycling Scotland’s bikeability Scotland cycle training. The percentage of schools participating has risen from 29 to 42 per cent, and nearly 500 schools have received cycling friendly status through Cycling Scotland’s cycling friendly scheme.

All that is before the effects of our record capital investment are truly being felt.

It will take time to build the quality, transformational places and infrastructure that we need. It is important that we take the time to work with communities to ensure that the projects are right, but we will look at ways to streamline the process.

Last year, we invested £36 million in Sustrans’ community links programme and a further £9 million to commence the design of six larger, ambitious and high-quality segregated cycling infrastructure projects. I look forward to seeing the first of those—the south city way in Glasgow—being delivered in 2019.

This year, I am delighted to announce that we are allocating a record £51 million from our active travel budget for 2019 to our new, combined infrastructure programme called places for everyone, which is administered on our behalf by Sustrans. As part of the programme, 10 ambitious projects are being considered for large-scale, multiyear funding. So far, Sustrans has received funding bids from 30 local authorities for segregated paths, improvements to the public realm and projects that would make our towns and cities safer and friendlier places in which to live, work and spend time. We hope to announce those projects in the next few months.

However, it is important to recognise that investment in active travel facilities and behaviour change projects will not, on its own, bring about the step change that we want. In all this Government’s work—on bus services and public transport more generally, health and wellbeing, planning, the environment and climate change—we need to consider how we can support active travel.

The broader, more strategic approach will be supported by the national transport strategy and the second strategic transport policy review. Both will set out a compelling vision for the transport system that we want for Scotland over the next 20 years and the type and scale of interventions that we will deliver to achieve that.

The draft national transport strategy, which we will consult on this summer, sets four priority areas: taking climate action, improving our health and wellbeing, promoting equality and helping our economy prosper. Those priorities recognise the importance of enabling people to make active travel choices to improve their health and wellbeing.

The Transport (Scotland) Bill will be an enabler of change. It aims to improve journeys for people across the country by supporting the development of a cleaner, smarter and more accessible network. By seeking to improve bus services and introducing low-emission zones, it promotes active and sustainable travel and, for cyclists, the prohibitions on double parking will assist in keeping roadways clear.

In addition, we have agreed to support a Scottish Greens’ amendment to the bill to enable local authorities to introduce workplace parking levy schemes. That would be a discretionary power. It has the potential to encourage modal shift towards public transport and active travel, including by supporting improvements to transport infrastructure and services in local areas to provide alternatives to car use.

Better integration between modes is important. Buses have a key role to play in joining up active journeys and in spreading the benefits of active travel more widely. If integrated active travel infrastructure and bus routes offer people faster, easier, healthier and more sustainable means of getting to their destination, they are much more likely to use them, and I am keen to see how the new internal bike racks introduced by Borders Buses earlier this year will be taken up.

On rail, ScotRail has delivered more than 1,500 additional cycle spaces at stations and provided bike & Go cycle hire facilities at 12 stations across Scotland. Overall, 97 per cent of stations have cycle parking, with more than 5,000 customer cycle spaces in total.

On climate change, this Government reacted to the declaration of a global climate emergency with amendments to our Climate Change (Scotland) Bill to set a net zero target for 2045 and to increase the target for 2030 to 70 per cent.

Scotland already has an ambitious agenda for decarbonising transport, but transport is Scotland’s biggest emitting sector, and it is clear that further action will be required to meet the new targets.

The Scottish Government is committed to making Scotland an active nation, and we are now matching that ambition with record levels of funding. There are positive signs of progress, but less than we would like and there is much more for us to do. I am confident that our ambitious programme of active travel investment will play a key part in delivering the greener, safer, happier and healthier Scotland that we all want to see.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The cabinet secretary will take questions on the issues that were raised in his statement, for around 20 minutes. A lot of members wish to ask questions, so questions and answers will have to be concise if we are to get through them.

Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

I will start by being positive and thanking the cabinet secretary for his statement. However, the reality is that, in this 1,230-word statement, there is little to be cheerful about. Quite simply, we learned from it that, on the Transport (Scotland) Bill, the Scottish National Party confirmed its support for the much-critiqued and hated car park tax; and, on active travel, it announced an £80 million budget that we already knew about but which has been miraculously reannounced today. Further—this is the big announcement—we learned that there will be continued funding for a policy that we already know about, delivered by an agency that we already know and funded by a budget that has already been announced.

Perhaps the real news today, buried away in the statement, is the cabinet secretary’s admission that the Government will spectacularly fail to meet its flagship cycling action plan target of 10 per cent of journeys being made by bike. Let us give the minister a chance to give some substance to his statement. What percentage of journeys does he expect to be made by bike by the original 2020 target? When does he expect the 10 per cent target to be met? If, after 10 years, his current cycling action plan has failed, will he publish a new one, and, if so, when?

Michael Matheson

As it stands, around 4 per cent of journeys are made by cycling, in the way that was set out in the plan. That is a record level, but it is clearly very far from the target that was set when the action plan was published in 2010, which illustrates the need for us to take further action on the matter. That is why I am putting in place a framework in order for us to monitor implementation and ensure that there is a much greater focus on the outcomes that are being achieved as part of the plan. In addition, we are undertaking a review of the existing cycling action plan, which is being conducted by Cycling Scotland and will inform our thinking about what further actions we need to take as part of that review.

The member suggested that the announcement of £80 million was a reannouncement. It is important to recognise that we are talking about a record level of funding that is being invested in active travel. Given that that funding is match funded by local authorities, it represents a significant amount of on-going investment in active travel—the highest level in any part of the UK. We need to ensure that we start to see the benefits that come from that capital investment in order to encourage people to make greater use of active travel options when they are travelling.

Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

I thank the cabinet secretary for advance sight of his statement.

Almost 10 years ago, the Government set a target to increase the share of everyday journeys that are made by bike to 10 per cent by 2020. Since then, the proportion of all journeys that are taken by bike has increased by just 0.7 per cent to a woeful 1.5 per cent. It is difficult to imagine that we will reach even half the level of the Government’s target by 2020. That failure needs to act as a wake-up call to the Government.

I welcome today’s announcement about the places for everyone infrastructure programme. Consideration of significant projects for funding will be essential if we are to increase the active travel rate in Scotland. However, given the climate emergency that we face and the slow progress in increasing the number of journeys that are made by bike, does the cabinet secretary accept that all viable projects in the programme, and not just a select few, should be funded?

Michael Matheson

It is important that we recognise the need to take concerted action to tackle the climate emergency, including by ensuring that local authorities have the power to take forward measures that can assist them in tackling issues that relate to climate change.

I hope that the member will reflect on what I think was a knee-jerk response from the Labour Party to the proposal to give local authorities powers to introduce the workplace parking levy, given that I understand that such a policy was in the Labour local government manifesto for the Glasgow area at the most recent elections, in recognition of the levy being an important measure that can assist in tackling issues to do with climate change, air quality and modal shift. No doubt we will see the colour of Labour’s money tomorrow, when the amendments to the Transport (Scotland) Bill in that regard are considered; we will find out how committed Labour is to tackling the climate emergency.

I assure the member that we have made record investment in active travel infrastructure and maintained that this year. The proportion that is going to capital investment projects has increased as well, to support the transformational change in infrastructure that we need, which is a key part of what is necessary to address the low number of individuals who take up active travel options. We will continue to do that, and for local authorities that want to make additional investment, there is the option of using the workplace parking levy and investing the money that comes from it in their local areas. [Interruption.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I do not want to cut people off—[Interruption.] Mr Smyth, please be quiet. I do not want to cut people off mid-stream, so please be concise with your questions and answers.

Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Green)

Cabinet secretary, there was more spin in your statement than you will see in a peloton. You have a vision for 10 per cent of journeys to be made by bike by next year, and you have declared a climate emergency, yet you have announced nothing new beyond more monitoring and analysis. You even failed to acknowledge that, with just six months to go, the rate sits at just 2 per cent, which is even lower than the 3 per cent of the huge transport budget that you invest in active travel.

Is it not high time that the vision became an actual target? Will you tell the Parliament, in response to the question that Jamie Greene asked, just when you intend to meet it?

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I remind members that they should always speak through the chair.

Michael Matheson

We have asked Cycling Scotland to review the action plan and consider what further measures need to be taken to address the issue that the member raised.

We are committed to continuing our record investment in active travel provisions, investing £80 million. I often hear the member say that we should use a larger proportion—at least 10 per cent—of our roads budget in Scotland for that purpose. The Transport Scotland budget for our trunk road and motorway network is £800-odd million, and £80 million is actually more than 10 per cent of that particular budget.

No doubt people will call for greater investment in the area. We have sought to make the matter a priority, which is why we doubled the budget. It is extremely disappointing that we have not achieved the target over almost 10 years, and that is why it is important that we have a clear focus on ensuring that we take the right measures, which will deliver the type of change that we want to see. That is exactly—

Patrick Harvie (Glasgow) (Green)


Michael Matheson

That is exactly what the framework and the review are about. I heard Mr Harvie ask, “When?” from a sedentary position; we are doing that right now, to get the matter addressed.

Gillian Martin (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)

A safe route to school is a right for children. Can the cabinet secretary give details on how we can ensure that a child has the right to a safe cycling route to school?

Michael Matheson

Through the £51 million places for everyone programme, we are encouraging all local authorities to submit proposals for projects that will deliver safer routes to school for children. In 2018-19, we invested some £2.5 million in infrastructure in and around schools and more than £2 million on behaviour change and cycle training programmes for children.

This year, Sustrans has received proposals from 25 local authorities for safer routes to schools and other infrastructure projects around schools. The proposals are currently being evaluated.

Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

Two years ago, this Parliament agreed to a motion that every schoolchild should have the opportunity to benefit from cycle training. Then, only 62 per cent of schools offered cycle training; now, the figure has fallen, when it should have increased. How will the transport secretary ensure that we make cycle training available to all our schoolchildren, as we unanimously agreed in this chamber two years ago?

Michael Matheson

As I mentioned, the number of local authorities and schools that are participating in the bikeability Scotland scheme and the cycling friendly programme has increased. Local authorities need to buy into the scheme and we will continue to work to encourage them to do so, because the scheme can help ensure that their pupils understand the risks and benefits of cycling on the roads and that they think about the options for cycling. The scheme is available for local authorities to buy to into and we continue to promote it to them and ask them to do so. However, it is ultimately down to local authorities and schools to decide whether to make use of it. The funding continues to be available for them to participate in the scheme.

Emma Harper (South Scotland) (SNP)

I welcome the commitment to additional funding. Will the cabinet secretary consider infrastructure spending to improve the cycling network along the south-west Scotland coast, so that it can be better connected and more accessible and attractive to people in Scotland as well as folks who are looking to holiday in and visit South Scotland?

Michael Matheson

As I just mentioned, the £51 million places for everyone programme is operated by Sustrans on our behalf. Local authorities can bid into it for cycling infrastructure, and I encourage local authorities in the south-west of Scotland to consider putting forward proposals to that fund.

Liam Kerr (North East Scotland) (Con)

Last week, I made the point—with which I think the cabinet secretary agreed—that a 20mph limit would be ignored and would not get more people cycling. What would get them cycling are safe segregated cycle lanes, which I think Gillian Martin spoke about.

The cabinet secretary spoke about money to Sustrans, but that is in the context of massively constrained local authority funding. What role will the Scottish Government play in ensuring that proper cycling infrastructure is put in place, and how much money is the Government directly committing to that?

Michael Matheson

The Government commitment is £51 million, which is match funded by local authorities. The vast majority of funding in the £80 million active travel budget is capital investment, most of which is match funded by local authorities. This year, that has resulted in about £135 million being invested by the Government and local authorities.

I disagree with those who say that the Government should pay for it all, because local authorities have a key role to play in taking ownership of the delivery of the type of infrastructure that is necessary. The reason for that is one on which I agree with the member. Segregated infrastructure for cycling and walking is one of the critical elements in supporting people to make that modal shift, which is why we have supported local authorities by increasing our funding for that type of provision in this year’s budget and why we have set them the target of match funding it so that we see even greater investment in that type of cycling and walking infrastructure.

Tom Arthur (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)

Neilston Development Trust in my constituency of Renfrewshire South delivers a range of services in Neilston and across East Renfrewshire to promote cycling, including repairs and maintenance, reconditioning donated bikes and providing training. How will work to deliver the ambitions of the cycling action plan support local community-led groups such as the Neilston Development Trust to promote cycling in their areas and how will such groups contribute to reaching our national targets for increased cycling?

Michael Matheson

The cycling action plan underpins the grant funding mechanism for a range of cycling funds. In 2018-19, we have invested £7.28 million in behaviour-changing activities to encourage more people to walk and cycle safely and confidently. That includes £300,000 in grant funding that is issued through the cycling friendly community development fund, which can support small local initiatives of the nature that Tom Arthur highlighted. I encourage the Neilston Development Trust to consider making an application to the fund for support for its valuable work in his constituency.

Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab)

The cabinet secretary utterly failed to even refer to the question that my colleague Colin Smyth asked. Let me give him another chance. Given the woeful progress in raising the number of journeys by bike and the need—by his own admission—for more segregated on-road cycle lanes, does the cabinet secretary accept that all the viable projects in the places for everyone infrastructure programme should be funded?

Michael Matheson

I am conscious of the number of calls that are made on Government funding for a whole range of initiatives. It would be great if we could provide funding to them all, but we have a limited budget and make investments in areas where we can get the best and greatest benefit. That applies to the transport portfolio as it does to health, justice and education.

I recognise that the Labour Party works in a world in which there is a money tree at the bottom of the garden that can fund anything and everything that anybody requests, but the reality is that we have a limited budget. We have made record investment in cycling infrastructure—no doubt the member will welcome that. We will do as much as we can to get the infrastructure right by supporting the various initiatives right across local authorities in Scotland. I will leave Labour to deal with the money tree at the bottom of the garden and with how they would fund all those things.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call Alasdair Allan, to be followed by—[Interruption.] Mr Smith, please stop being so rude to your colleagues when they are called for their questions by shouting from your seat.

Dr Alasdair Allan (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)

The Hebridean way cycling route has successfully drawn more and more cyclists to the Western Isles since it was opened by record-breaking long-distance cyclist Mark Beaumont three years ago. What action is the Scottish Government taking on infrastructure to make provision for that growth, in both the islands and other rural areas of Scotland?

Michael Matheson

I am well aware of the increasing number of people—not only from Scotland and the UK, but from elsewhere—who are attracted to and make use of the Hebridean way, which is proving to be extremely popular. Within our active travel funding, the funding for the £51 million places for everyone programme allows local authorities to submit proposals for delivering paths for walking and cycling in rural areas of the nature that Alasdair Allan referred to. For example, in the Highlands, we continue to develop the Caledonian way, which is being invested in to support the route link between North Connel and Oban, and we want to see an expansion of those types of strategic tourist routes that will encourage people to travel to Scotland. Local authorities can submit proposals to the places for everyone programme in order to get funding support for walking and cycling initiatives.

Graham Simpson (Central Scotland) (Con)

Cycling Scotland published its own progress report on the cycling action plan in 2016, which stated even then that the 10 per cent target would not be met. It said that

“A long term increase in sustained funding is required, with year-on-year increases over time towards a 10% allocation of national and council transport budgets”

Does the cabinet secretary agree with that?

Michael Matheson

Last year, we doubled the active travel budget, and this year, we have sustained that in order to see greater capital investment. Therefore, I recognise that greater funding should be made available to provide the type of infrastructure that supports people to make a model shift from using cars to cycling or walking, alongside continued investment in other options such as bus and rail travel. All those things will contribute to this agenda, and we continue to make significant investment in them from an active travel point of view and as part of Scotland’s wider transport infrastructure.

Jenny Marra (North East Scotland) (Lab)

A number of schoolchildren have just joined us in the gallery. I would be surprised if even one or two of them cycle to school. In terms of the safety of cycling to school, does the cabinet secretary agree that a 20mph limit might be better for children?

Michael Matheson

That is why, as a Government, we support the introduction by local authorities of 20mph zones in the right places, particularly around schools. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, we want to ensure that local authorities introduce the zones in the right areas. A number of local authorities already do that. I am sure that the member would want to acknowledge that, and that she would want to ensure that councils have the powers and the ability to do that and that she would support them in doing that.

I am afraid that the member is misguided if she thinks that we do not support 20mph zones—we do; we just do not believe that the one-size-fits-all approach of Mr Ruskell’s bill is the right way of going about that.

Bruce Crawford (Stirling) (SNP)

Is the cabinet secretary aware of the fantastic work being done by Forth Environment Link and Stirling cycle hub to promote and encourage cycling in the Stirling area and make Stirling the most cycle-friendly city in the country? The city-wide bike sharing scheme is an important part of that. What more can the Scottish Government and local government do to help to develop more protected cycle lanes? In Stirling, 83 per cent of residents support building such lanes, despite the impact on traffic.

Michael Matheson

I am very much aware of Forth Environment Link’s work in Stirling and its active travel hub there, which I believe may be as good as its active travel hub in my constituency, just along from my constituency office in Falkirk. I am also aware that Forth Environment Link is taking forward work on the community links plus project, which is aimed at delivering safer roads and segregated cycle paths, and improving the local public realm for pedestrians and other users. I have no doubt that Forth Environment Link will continue to pursue that.

Additionally, Forth Environment Link is developing the first regional electric bike scheme in Scotland, which will support modal shift and sustainable travel options in the area. I would certainly want to continue to encourage Forth Environment Link on that very important work, which I have seen at first hand in my constituency, and which is taking place in Mr Crawford’s constituency.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

That concludes questions on the ministerial statement on the cycling action plan for Scotland. Other members would have liked to have asked questions but were unable to do so. I would ask all members to consider that when they are asking questions and providing answers, they should be a bit more concise.