Scottish Government commits additional £4 million to cycling
Cycling advocates claim more money needed, while opponents say funding "unaffordable"
The Scottish Government has revealed that it is committing an additional £4 million to fund new cycle routes and provide cycle training to schoolchildren. The announcement was made by Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson on Friday when he opened a new cycle path between Kincardine and Culross in Fife.
Quoted on the STV website, Mr Stevenson said: "As a result of our cycling plan almost £4 million will go into building new cycle routes and improving cycle training.
"I am confident that as we improve the delivery of cycle training in our schools and construct new cycle routes, like the one I've opened today in Fife, that we will achieve our 2020 vision," he added.
Sustainable transport charity Sustrans, which co-ordinates the National Cycle Network, applauded the government’s backing of cycling in the country, with National Director for Scotland Jim Lauder saying: "We welcome the launch of the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland (CAPS) The CAPS' ambitious vision of ten per cent of journeys in Scotland to be made by bike, by 2020, is completely achievable provided we see good leadership from all levels of government in Scotland, local and national.
Mr Lauder continued: "The Minister's announcement of additional funding shows that central government is prepared to back the strategy this year and we hope that they will re-focus their funding priorities in the next spending review, away from carbon emitting and resource depleting road schemes towards active travel, which provides great value for money, boosts people's exercise levels, provides an alternative to the car for short trips and improves the quality of life for all. I also trust that local authorities who have backed the strategy will also show leadership towards achieving this target".
However, the £3.9 million funding has come under fire from both those who say that more money is needed to fully implement the government’s vision of cycling in Scotland, and opposition politicians who maintain that the money could be better spent elsewhere given the current economic environment.
According to STV, Colin Howden, director of transport alliance Transform Scotland, said: "The one-off funding package announced today is welcome but it only represents a drop in the ocean compared to the level of investment required.
"We need to see a major boost in investment in walking and cycling when the Scottish Government publishes its spending review later this year.
"If this doesn't happen then we can't see how the Government can meet its aspiration that 10% of all journeys be made by bike by 2020.
Meanwhile, Conservative transport spokesman Jackson Carlaw claimed that the latest funding, which takes the total spent to £17 million, was “unaffordable,” saying: “No one is denying cycling is an excellent alternative mode of transport. It's healthy and is a great way of cutting carbon emissions.
"But we can extol the virtues of cycling and make it easier for people to cycle without spending £17 million. The fact is that, thanks to Labour's legacy of debt, we are living in difficult economic times and every penny of taxpayers' money has to be justified.
"In the best of circumstances this funding is a luxury. Right now it is unaffordable," he added.
Liberal Democrat transport spokeswoman Alison McInnes stated: "It is unfortunate that the SNP have not used this opportunity to produce a genuine step-change which could have revitalised cycling in Scotland.