Ahead of the Scottish budget debate on Wednesday, Ramblers Scotland has joined a coalition of transport and environmental groups backed by the broadcaster Lesley Riddoch and University of Edinburgh Professor Chris Oliver to call on the government to reprioritise its transport budget and spend less money on road building and motorways and more on supporting walking and cycling.
In the current budget proposals, the government will spend £820 million next year on roads but just £41 million on active modes of travel. Therefore, the groups who include Spokes, Friends of the Earth Scotland, Pedal on Parliament, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland and Transform Scotland have jointly issued a Parliamentary Briefing calling on the Government to transfer 1% of its proposed trunk roads and motorways budget to active travel.
Dave du Feu, cycling campaigner for Spokes said,
"If Councils are expected to find cuts of 7% to non-care services, surely the government can find 1% from its own trunk roads budget to ensure that its policies on walking and cycling do not suffer.
"The last year or two have seen growing ambition and expertise in many Scottish Councils seeking to improve conditions for cycling, for example Edinburgh's plan for a segregated route through the city centre, and other bold plans in Glasgow and Inverness. Just 1% from the government's £820m trunk roads budget would help maintain this momentum rather than putting it at risk."
Emilia Hanna, air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland said,
“The Government has got its spending plans all wrong by pouring millions into roads which will create more traffic congestion, more air pollution, and more climate emissions. If it transfers just 1% of the cash it plans to spend on new polluting roads into active travel, this will support councils to get lots more people walking and cycling across Scotland.
Lesley Riddoch, broadcaster and journalist, said,
"It's not too late to make a big dent in Scotland's bad habits with a relatively small amount of public cash. We know the sedentary lifestyle of many Scots is a killer, here's a way to do something about it."
Professor Chris Oliver, Honorary Professor of Physical Activity for Health at the University of Edinburgh said,
"There is far too much money in virtual silos in Scottish Government. It's difficult to sensibly move money around. Transferring more money into active travel will not only benefit cycling and walking levels but will have a considerable amplified effect on long term Scottish health as well."
Jess Dolan, Director of Ramblers Scotland said,
"If we were all physically active for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week, as a country our risk factors for diseases like type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart attacks and some common cancers would be much lower and the chance of dying early would decrease by 30%. It's important that we reprioritise transport spending to invest in active travel so that walking and cycling become the easiest and most convenient options for short journeys. This would help increase physical activity levels, and contribute to making Scotland a healthier nation."