SNP and Greens miles off diesel bus cut target


The Scottish Government has sought to spread the blame for the likely failure of its election pledge to ‘remove the majority of diesel buses from public transport by the end of 2023’.

A report by Transform Scotland on progress against sustainable transport commitments pointed out that although the 2021-22 Programme for Government (PFG) made the pledge, ‘approximately 16% of the Scottish bus fleet can be expected to be decarbonised by the end of 2023’.

An electric bus - in short supply in Scotland

The 2021-22 PFG was published in September last year, 18 months since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.The SNP manifesto for the 2021 Scottish Parliament election, which took place in May 2021, stated: ‘We will…remove the majority of fossil fuel buses from public transport by 2023’.

The Scotsman reported that during last year’s election campaign, the then chair of Transform Scotland had said the 2023 pledge had ‘raised a few eyebrows’ within the industry. She said: ‘The worry might be this may put undue pressure on an industry which is scrambling to survive.’

Despite this, a Transport Scotland spokesperson said that: ‘No-one could have anticipated the profound impact the global pandemic across the globe let alone the bus sector and these targets’.

The spokesperson added that the Scottish Government had always been clear that the pledge was what it called ‘an ambitious target that we could not meet alone’, adding, ‘that’s why the work of our Bus Decarbonisation Taskforce has been critical to our success so far'.

Transform Scotland, which describes itself as ‘Scotland’s alliance for sustainable transport’, said Transport Scotland had ‘indicated that they do not hold information of the Scottish fleet make up’, which it described as ‘rather unexpected’.

It stated that on the basis that Scotland has approximately 3,700 licensed buses and that there are approximately 280 zero-emission buses currently operating, with funding for another 325 awarded, ‘this should take the total number to just over 600 by the end of 2023’.

It added: ‘Approximately 16% of the Scottish bus fleet can be expected to be decarbonised by the end of 2023.’

Transport Network has approached the Scottish Green Party, which signed up to the PFG, including its commitment to continued road building, for comment.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon is due to set out the 2022-23 PFG on Tuesday (6 September).

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