Active Travel (Environment and Climate Change)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 31st May 2018.

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Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

7. To ask the Scottish Government how its environmental policy and its climate change commitments are informed by active travel. (S5O-02163)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

As I said in my previous answer, active travel and building an active nation are very much at the heart of this Administration’s thinking on our climate change plans and commitments. That is why, as Brian Whittle will know, we have doubled the active travel budget from £40 million to £80 million per year.

That funding is providing cycling and walking infrastructure across the country, such as segregated infrastructure in towns and cities, greater access to bikes—including, I hope, electric bikes—education and training programmes for adults and children who are learning to cycle, and generally making our towns and cities safer, friendlier and greener places in which to live and work.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

I welcome the projects that the minister describes. However, I point out that in some projects there have been missed opportunities. For example, at the Queen Elizabeth university hospital there is a lack of bike racks; major infrastructure projects are being designed without cycle routes; and capacity for bikes on rail carriages is being reduced. Will the minister impress upon his colleagues in other portfolios that active travel considerations must be paramount if environmental targets are to be met?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

Generally speaking, Brian Whittle makes a fair point. However, when it comes to projects on the ground, in various local authority areas we have more than doubled funding—from £15 million to £36 million—for the community links project, which helps to build some of the infrastructure projects to which he has referred. The first round will be announced shortly, but there will be some money for round 2 and subsequent rounds, so I encourage Mr Whittle to speak to partners in areas that he thinks might benefit from that very important funding.

There is very good and collaborative cross-Government working on this agenda. For example, I regularly meet the Minister for Public Health and Sport, Aileen Campbell, to talk about our commitment on an active nation commissioner.

Lastly, I gently make the point that although Mr Whittle says that he welcomes the doubling of the active travel budget from £40 million to £80 million per year, it would have been nice to have had the Conservatives’ support for the budget and that increase in it.

Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party

I thank the minister for the comments that he made a few moments ago. What further actions can the Scottish Government take to encourage people to change their behaviour? Might such work take place with a campaign or further work with local authorities?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I think that it can. Behaviour change is hugely important. Looking at our younger generation, we offer as many young people as possible the opportunity of receiving cycling training, both in schools and in on-the-road practical training. I know that Mike Rumbles, too, has a particular interest in that issue.

We must also look at people who perhaps have not previously had the confidence to cycle and who might have mobility issues or even disabilities or chronic health conditions. That is perhaps where exciting opportunities around e-bikes might present themselves. I am looking very hard at how we might use some of the doubled active travel budget not only to effect behaviour change, which is important, but to make cycling and active travel more accessible for more people—and for as many as possible.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

We were a little late starting this section of portfolio questions. I call Jeremy Balfour to ask question 8.