Transport Scotland: It’s OK to miss sustainable transport targets


The Scottish Government should continue to set targets that are ‘just about within reach’ for the transition to sustainable transport, even if they could eventually be missed by a significant margin, a Transport Scotland official has said.

The devolved administration has been criticised for an unrealistic pledge to decarbonise half the country’s bus fleet by the end of next year, while its target of reducing car kilometres by 20% by 2030 has been contrasted with its continuing commitment to major roadbuilding schemes.

Earlier this year, a report by Transform Scotland on progress against the Scottish Governments sustainable transport commitments assessed that ‘approximately 16% of the Scottish bus fleet can be expected to be decarbonised by the end of 2023’, which would leave the Scottish Government less than one-third of the way towards its target.

Speaking at Road Expo Scotland, Stuart Greig (pictured), director low carbon economy at Transport Scotland, was asked by Transport Network whether ‘overpromising and underdelivering’ on such targets risked undermining confidence in them.

He replied: ‘It’s always a balance between trying to set something which is stretching – the mission to the moon type approach – and getting that fine balance of something that is just about within reach. The key is: keep setting these targets, these aspirations that are just about within reach if we absolutely max out on it.

‘The bus [target] – I’d turn it around and say, the bus sector in Scotland has done an unbelievable job responding to those targets, and we’ve worked so closely with them that…all the main operators now have got a plan in place for decarbonising their fleets – and it makes business sense as well.

‘It may or may not happen exactly in line with the targets that have been set but it has changed the trajectory.’

Scottish ministers have continued to insist that they are ‘committed’ to dualling both the A9 between Perth and Inverness and the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen, costed at £3bn each.

In April, in its response to the Scottish Government’s 20% target, Transform Scotland noted that, the administration’s investment priorities ‘have not yet substantially shifted towards more sustainable travel’.

It noted: ‘Transport Scotland has projects to expand road capacity in the pipeline worth over £7 billion, which is a significantly larger programme than the £4 billion spent on road capacity expansion in the past ten years.’

It added: ‘Reversing the current trend towards ever more car kilometres and reducing car kms by 20% by 2030 will require political commitment to implementing radical set of policies at a swift pace, itself a radical change from the procrastination and prevarication which has characterised the past couple of decades.’

Conversely, the Scottish Government has also been criticised for not taking the A9 dualling forward quickly enough and has effectively admitted that a decade-old target of completing the scheme by 2025 is unlikely to be met.

Last month transport minister Jenny Gilruth said that work to determine the most suitable procurement options for the remaining sections of the scheme – which has been going on for nearly two years – was ‘ongoing’.

She added, without giving a date: ‘An update on the outcomes of this complex piece of work will be provided to Parliament.’

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