Former professional mountain biker Lee Craigie’s term as Scotland’s Active Nation Commissioner came to an end last week, but as she stepped down, she wrote a letter directly addressed to the Scottish Minister of Active Travel Patrick Harvie, condemning the Government's reluctance to focus on ensuring a modal and behavioural shift and obsessing over bureaucracy, which has resulted in many active travel projects failing to see the light of day.
Craigie wrote that in the last four years, while she had been inspired by the vision and passion behind the efforts to increase levels of walking, wheeling and cycling, there was a “frustrating and disappointing lack of collaboration and levels of bureaucracy” halting progress, which will need to be addressed in the future.
She said: “I have witnessed comparatively large sums of money being spent ensuring bureaucratic processes were adhered to while inexpensive, person-centered, creative projects that value people and might have better engaged younger or harder to reach audiences were drowned in procurement processes or dumbed down to avoid any possibility of debate or controversy.
A former British cyclocross and 24-hour mountain bike champion, Craigie was appointed as Scotland’s Ambassador for Active Travel in 2019, before taking on a three-year role as the Active Nation Commissioner.
In the letter to the co-leader of the Scottish Greens Patrick Harvie, which Craigie also shared on Twitter, she emphasised the importance of a behavioural shift. She said that “active travel directly infiltrates so many other policy areas that it should be considered a Super Policy”.
“Transport is a social justice issue yet reducing our health inequalities and our carbon emissions should be at the heart of every policy made by every department of the Scottish Government,” she added.
As my term as Ambassador for Active Travel with @scotgov comes to an end, I offer this open letter to @patrickharvie in an effort to accelerate Scotland’s ambition to become a healthier, happier, fairer and more sustainable nation. Full report here https://t.co/Q5890hiqWD pic.twitter.com/7Eq5Z4mtTW
— lee craigie (@leecraigie_) September 26, 2023
Cragie also added that a vocal minority was hindering efforts to improve air quality and restrict cars, such as on pavements and where children played.
She said: “Unfortunately, it is still a well organised minority of people with the loudest voices who are given the broadest platform to express their views and this is undermining the individuals and institutions we know are in the majority and who wish to live by compassionate values.
“This, in turn, makes those people feel that they are instead in the minority and that upholding their compassionate values is pointless because everyone around them is simply out for themselves.
“This is why cultures of selfish values become self-actualising. It is the responsibility of our statutory services and political leaders to make bold. fair, health and environment-centred decisions based on fact and the carefully considered opinions of a broad range of our diverse population and not a privileged few.
Scottish Conservatives’ Transport Spokesperson Graham Simpson told The Scotsman: “Lee Craigie’s frustrations are very clear in this damning letter which should be a wake-up call for Patrick Harvie.
“Her comments on the lack of joined-up thinking, bureaucracy and the failure to involve communities in planning for active travel should be acted on immediately.
“Her role was always more symbolic than anything. Perhaps if she had been given some authority then she would not felt the need to write such a polite but strong letter.”
Scottish Labour’s active travel spokesperson Mercedes Villalba MSP said: “The Scottish Government must prioritise active travel infrastructure and properly fund local projects designed to provide better access to walking and cycling – both of which are vital if we are to reduce traffic on our roads – rather than getting bogged down in bureaucracy.
“Access to and experience of active travel is impacted by our gender, our ethnicity, and whether we have a disability. Active travel options must be inclusive while seeking to redress social as well as economic inequalities, so that marginalised communities have access to walking and cycling.
“The Scottish Government must end the cuts to local authorities and invest in insourcing to treat active travel like the vital public service it is with well paid, unionised public sector workers at the heart of it.”
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency said: “We will take on board her comments as we continue our review of our approach to active travel delivery for 2024-25.
“Lee has offered and continues to provide a strong, trusted, and impartial voice in broadening the public conversation on active travel.
“We thank the ambassador for her time and commitment to increasing active travel in her role.”
Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.