15 June 2020

Scottish Labour is warning that the recycling of funds set aside for active travel schemes could lead to less than half of the government’s original promised spending being delivered this year.

The Scottish Government has allocated £30 million of funding to the Spaces for People scheme, which will create pop-up active travel programmes to help with social distancing for cyclists and walkers. While the funding announcement is welcome, it does however mean that money has been taken from a pot that was intended to create permanent active travel arrangements.

The existing fund, Places for Everyone, originally contained £50.8 million to be matched by local authorities. Removing £30 million from that pot means less than half will be left for permanent schemes such as the creation of cycle lanes and accessible walking paths.

Due to the nature of the temporary schemes, each will come to an end once the agreed time period has lapsed, while those started through the original fund are required to be safe and functional for a minimum of 15 years.

At a time when more people are taking part in activities like cycling and walking, it is unfortunate that this recycling of funds will lead to less money being spent on permanent schemes to keep people active longer term.

Scottish Labour’s spokesperson for transport, connectivity and rural affairs, Colin Smyth, said:

“The Spaces for People scheme is very welcome and will help put in place safety measures to protect cyclists and walkers during this pandemic – but the funding for it must be kept separate from our long-term ambitions of creating safer outdoor spaces for everyone.

“The irony here is that more than half of the money earmarked to make Scotland a safe and accessible place for people to be active is to be spent on measures that will only last the duration of this crisis and no more.

“I appreciate that it will be a couple of months before councils can start construction on new permanent schemes, but once they are able to, we want to see more investment in initiatives such as cycle lanes, not less. The Scottish Government should be looking at how to keep activity levels up once we have come out of the other side of this lockdown – not cutting the funds that will help them do that.

“This temporary scheme is vital and will offer greater protection in the short term, but the government must put forward new money to fund it, and protect the long-term vision that the original funding was intended for.”

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