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Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 29th March 2012.

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Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

I thank Alison Johnstone for lodging the motion and for the way in which she has spoken to it. It is a comprehensive motion on cycling that provides us with a good opportunity to debate further what actions and partnership working are needed. As she suggested, Parliament is generally in agreement that cycling should be a safe, healthy and realistic choice as a mode of transport. There has recently been a focus on cycling, not least because of the four fatalities in Edinburgh in the past 12 months, which have led to the recent road safety operational partnership group meeting. That meeting provided an extremely fruitful discussion; it was well attended and there was participation from a wide range of cycling stakeholders, some of whom have been mentioned.

In Scotland, the growth in the number of cyclists has been accompanied by a 12 per cent drop in cycle accident casualties between 2000 and 2010. That was the result of a lot of activity by different partners. As Alison Johnstone said, we have a vested interest in trying to make it clear to the public—as far as we can and with the appropriate caveats—how safe cycling is and how much safer it has become, with fewer serious accidents happening. If we do that, we are more likely to encourage more cycling.

That said, we cannot be complacent. Everyone has been shocked by the cycling deaths in Edinburgh over the past 12 months. When such tragedies happen, we are all reminded that, although Scotland’s roads are among the safest in the world, one life lost is one too many.

I accept Alison Johnstone’s point that the Government has a leadership role to play in making use of our roads safer for everyone. We will do that by facilitating partnership working. At the forum that I mentioned, there were two excellent presentations from City of Edinburgh Council and Glasgow City Council, which showed stark results in the reduction in the number of cycling casualties—in one case going back 50 years and in the other case going back 60 years.