Scots encouraged to cycle, walk and use public transport - but opposition say he should set example himself

Scotland’s Transport Minister, Keith Brown, is urging his fellow Scots to leave the car at home and embrace alternatives such as cycling, walking and public transport in the New Year.

The SNP politician, who represents Clackmannanshire and Dunblane, made the call in his New Year Message, published on the Scottish Government website.

However, Mr Brown has been accused of “breathtaking hypocrisy” by Labour’s transport spokeswoman Elaine Murray.

She says that Scotland’s active travel budget had been cut from £25.1 million in 2011/12 to £13.9 million in 2014/15, reports the Evening Times.

Mr Brown opened his message by saying, “Many of us rely on our cars to get about. Personally, my car acts as a mobile office, allowing me to catch up on work in between engagements in a way I wouldn't be able to using other means of transport.

"However, I know that there are journeys I make where I could leave the car at home and often I feel the benefit of doing so.

"We have some of the most stunning scenery in the world right on our doorstep and you really see the best of it if you take a train journey or get out on your bike. Even in our cities, you are never far from some countryside or the sea and you just don't see the best of it sitting in your car.

After outlining public transport options such as train, bus and coach services as well as ferries linking island communities with the mainland, Mr Brown turned his attention to outlining ways in which he claims the Scottish Government is encouraging people to take to bicycles to get around.

"Cycling in Scotland is more accessible than ever and a great way to get some exercise without having to fit a gym session into your day.

“We are investing in infrastructure such as cycle paths and cycle lanes, as well as campaigns aimed at raising driver awareness of cyclists, all of which is making cycling safer.

“We are also trying to encourage children to get involved in cycling from an early age with our cycle training in primary schools programme.

"I took part in Pedal for Scotland back in September and was impressed that 14,000 people turned out for this great even, a sign that cycling is growing in popularity.

"Finally,” concluded the minister, “the most sustainable mode of transport of all is your feet! Short journeys can often be made on foot and walking is a great way to stay active, clear your head and reduce your carbon footprint all at once.

"We are fortunate in Scotland to have a range of transport options available to us and I would encourage people to explore more of these in 2012."

However, Ms Murray said that Mr Brown should himself seek to set an example to others.

“If we are serious about cutting our carbon emissions and making 10% of trips by 2020 by bike, we must make walking and cycling become a more convenient, attractive and realistic choice for short journeys,” she maintained.

“Keith Brown should make 2012 the year he starts practising what he preaches and he gets out his petrol-guzzling ministerial limo and on his bike."

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.