On track for sustainable transport? 2050 responds to the National Transport Strategy

October 23rd, 2019 Posted by Blogs, Policy No Comment yet

In this blog, Jamie Wylie, Policy subgroup member, explains the 2050 Climate Group’s response to the National Transport Strategy and discusses why climate change and young people must be at the forefront of the Scottish Government’s approach to transport.

Transport. It may not sound very sexy, but it’s a key part of our everyday lives. It’s how we get to work, to school, college and university, to the shops, to see friends and everything in between. How and where we choose to travel doesn’t just have a big impact on our lives though; it also has a huge impact on the world around us.

Transport now accounts for 37% of carbon emissions in Scotland, making it our nation’s largest contributor to climate change. There’s been some worrying trends in recent years, too: Car use increasing, bus use falling rapidly, cycling rates stagnating — there’s a lot of cause for concern. On top of this, our transport system plays a key role in many other problems we’re facing in Scotland: Physical inactivity and obesity, polluted air and time-wasting congestion, to name but three.

In response to these issues, the Scottish Government has started stepping up action to shift towards a sustainable transport system. There’s been some promising signs of late, including recent funding to prioritise buses in towns and cities, new powers for councils to cut car use and boost public transport in the Transport Bill, 2017’s doubling of funding for walking and cycling, and the reversal of plans to scrap an aviation tax. All of these measures will go some way to creating a more sustainable and fair transport system in Scotland. 

But there’s no denying that there’s still a long way to go to create a transport system that works for everyone. To shape the future of transport and get things heading in the right direction, the Scottish Government recently revealed a new National Transport Strategy (NTS). The NTS is essentially a set of guiding principles which the Scottish Government has had since 2006. It is supposed to act as a basis for decision-making on transport in Scotland, such as which new infrastructure projects should be pursued. The new NTS (revealed in July) will be in effect for the next 20 years. It’s a comprehensive piece of work, setting out key priorities for achieving a shift to a “sustainable, inclusive and accessible transport system, helping deliver a healthier, fairer and more prosperous Scotland for communities, businesses and visitors”. 

To gauge the nation’s views on the NTS, the Government launched a 12-week consultation, which closed this week. Here at the 2050 Climate Group, we wanted to make sure that young people had the opportunity to shape the NTS. That’s why we launched our own survey to gather the views of young people along with a dedicated information page and a short explainer video.

We received over 40 responses from young people across the country, and they had a lot to say. In general, people were supportive of the NTS’s vision for the future of transport in Scotland and the priorities that are set out to reach the vision. From taking action on climate change to creating a fairer transport system, there was recognition that the NTS would help to create positive change for Scotland, if put into practice. 

But there was also strong recognition that more needs to be done to create the transport system that we need. Among the most commonly made points was the need to do more to make public transport, walking and cycling the most convenient option for everyone, particularly in towns and cities. To do this, more safe cycle routes and more space for public transport was considered key. Another key issue raised facing young people was the cost of travel. Many people considered public transport to simply be too expensive, and that car use is therefore often the only feasible option that people have. For rural areas, creating more frequent and faster connections was considered key to getting more people using public transport.

Climate change also took centre stage in our survey report. Many respondents felt that the NTS isn’t ambitious enough  on the changes we need to reduce our transport system’s contribution to the climate crisis. Many felt that more emphasis was needed on actively incentivising people to use sustainable modes of transport, rather than merely promoting these options. Additionally, there was some concern that there needs to be a better alignment of transport investment decisions with the Government’s climate goals. You can read our full response here.

So what happens next? Well, the Scottish Government will consider all the responses to the NTS consultation and, hopefully, make changes to the NTS with these responses in mind. After that, the NTS will – hypothetically – be used to guide decision-making in transport for the next two decades, helping to make a more sustainable and fairer transport system for everyone.

If you want to learn more about how we can create a sustainable transport system which works better for young people, keep your eyes peeled for a 2050 event coming up in the near future…

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