Cycling Proficiency Training

– in the Scottish Parliament on 16th November 2017.

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Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

6. To ask the Scottish Government, in light of the Parliament passing the Scottish Liberal Democratsamendment in October following the debate on active travel, what action it is taking to ensure that every child in the country has access to cycling proficiency training. (S5O-01478)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I welcomed the member’s amendment to the Scottish Government’s motion. In the past two debates that I have led in the Parliament, I have found myself agreeing with Mike Rumbles on a number of occasions, despite my better instincts.

For a number of years, we have provided funding to Cycling Scotland for bikeability Scotland cycle training for all primary school children in Scotland. This year, we are investing around £800,000 for that training. On the back of the amendment that was accepted, the member will know that we will double our spend on active travel. It is fair to assume that a reasonable proportion of that money will go towards ensuring that the ambitions in the Liberal Democrats’ amendment are met.

Earlier this month, I met Cycling Scotland and a number of active travel stakeholder organisations to discuss this very issue. I have asked that Cycling Scotland redouble its efforts to promote the funding to local authorities and schools, and I would be happy to listen to any ideas that the member has.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I thank the minister for that comprehensive response. I am grateful for his support on the issue. When will the entire programme be completed? How long will that take to achieve?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I will try to give a little more detail as the programme develops, and I will keep the member updated. He will understand that, in doubling the budget on active travel, we want to get as much bang for our buck as we can. We are talking to active travel stakeholders, and we are looking at international and United Kingdom comparators to see how we can meet those ambitions.

In 2016-17, 36,711 primary school children—a record number—took part in bikeability Scotland cycle training. Nevertheless, in keeping with the member’s amendment, we would like to see many more children take part. I will endeavour to keep the member updated.

With regard to increasing cycling rates, we are putting a lot of effort into encouraging our young people to be more active through active travel. However, the programme should be seen as something not just for young people; I also recommend active travel and cycling to those of a vintage disposition.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

In teaching our children to cycle safely, we must create an environment in which there are safe places for children to cycle. Will the minister look at how we can create an environment around our schools such that our children have the opportunity to cycle to and from school?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

The member makes the point well. I remember him talking in the active travel debate about his family circumstances and how he would be more comfortable if there were segregated cycle paths. The Scottish Government thinks that segregated cycle paths will make our roads safer, and I give the member a guarantee that we will continue to invest in segregated cycle paths through our community links and community links plus programmes.

Bikeability training, which was previously the cycling proficiency test, contains an element of on-road training, which I think is excellent for children.

The member will know about our guidelines and recommendations to local authorities on 20mph zones around schools, which we think are a great idea. If he has further ideas about how we can improve safety on our roads, particularly for those who are travelling to our schools, I am all ears.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Can the minister tell us how per capita spending on active travel in Scotland compares with the spending that prevails elsewhere in the UK?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

After our active travel debate last week, I asked that very question so that I could examine the figures. From next year, when the active travel budget increases, we will spend at least £14.80 per head of population in Scotland on active travel. In England, if we exclude London, the figure is £6.50; in Wales, it is estimated to be between £3 and £5; and according to Cycling UK, spending in Northern Ireland is acknowledged to be “limited and spread thinly.” I am pleased to say that Scotland leads the way on that endeavour.