Stricter and lower speed limits, higher parking charges and a five pence per kilometre road pricing scheme are being proposed by the Scottish government as part of a major new offensive to cut the pollution that is disrupting the climate.
A key policy report leaked to the Sunday Herald reveals that ministers are also considering big increases in spending on walking and cycling, grants for low-carbon cars, and boosts for buses and trains.
A further series of radical plans are being drawn up to meet the ambitious target of cutting climate pollution 42% by 2020. These include a renewed £1 billion-plus home insulation scheme, a massive tree-planting programme, bans on dumping waste as landfill, and moves to force farmers to clean up their act.
The government’s new package of 30 “proposals and policies” to combat climate change has been warmly welcomed by environmentalists. But some of the measures have already provoked the ire of the car lobby, businesses and farmers.
The Association of British Drivers dismissed the curbs on cars as “lunatic”. They would spark widespread anger, claimed Peter Spinney, the association’s co-ordinator in Scotland.
“Whoever brought them in would have to be attempting political suicide,” he said. “They would be sentenced to a lifetime ban from government.”
A specific plan for a £300 a year workplace parking levy has upset the employers’ group, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). “The fear is that this would be seen as just another tax on business at a time when it can ill-afford extra taxes,” said CBI Scotland’s assistant director, David Lonsdale.
And farmers are uncomfortable with the suggestion that their public subsidies could be tied to cutting their emissions. These kind of compulsory measures “have a bad track record in actually influencing behaviour”, according to James Withers, the chief executive of the National Farmers’ Union in Scotland.
The leaked report accepts that selling some of the policies could be difficult. Increased parking charges are “unlikely to be widely supported”, road pricing is “complex to deliver” and giving more road space to cyclists is “likely to face opposition from drivers”, it says.
But the report argues that the measures it puts forward are “comprehensive” and “realistic” options for meeting the climate target. They will enable Scotland’s carbon emissions to be reduced from 70 million tonnes in 1990 to 40.6 million tonnes in 2020, it says.
Dr Richard Dixon, the director of the environmental group WWF Scotland, commended ministers for not shying away from tough choices. The proposals would bring widespread benefits, he argued.
"These policies show that tackling climate change can also help solve fuel poverty, reduce accidents on our roads and create a better living for farmers,” he said. “Going for a low-carbon economy makes sense all round.”
The Scottish government insisted that one of its budget priorities was a low carbon Scotland. The proposals in the report were options for discussion but may not all end up becoming government policy, it said.
Revealed the government's 30 green proposals
For months it has been discussed behind closed doors. It is one of the most important policy documents produced by the Scottish government, and now it has come out of the shadows.
The “proposals and policies” report leaked to the Sunday Herald outlines how ministers plan to meet their ambitious targets to cut climate pollution 42% by 2020. It contains more than 30 specific measures across several areas of policy, all designed to reduce the emissions that are helping to trigger floods, storms and droughts around the world.
It is, by any standards, a hugely ambitious venture, that has already garnered many bouquets and brickbats. It gives a taste of the many battles to come, if the government is serious about making Scotland a truly low-carbon economy.
The most contentious, and arguably the most essential, elements of the package are those that seek to transform what the former Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher, called “the great car economy”.
There are plans for “stricter enforcement” of the 70mph limit on dual carriageways, and to reduce the limit to 60mph on all trunk roads. More “active traffic management” could include variable speed limits and average speed enforcement.
But there is a snag. Although most drivers back the use of speed cameras to improve road safety, the report points out that their use to curb pollution is “less likely to be supported”.
On parking, the report assumes a “50% increase” in charges. It suggests that all on-street parking should be controlled by residents’ permits and ‘pay and display’ machines by 2017.
However this is “unlikely to be widely supported except in areas where non-residents compete with residents for limited on-street parking,” it cautions.
Similarly, the report proposes a £300 levy on every parking space every year for employers with ten or more staff. “Unlikely to be widely supported by employers,” it notes.
It also suggests a nationwide road pricing scheme that would make motorists pay for every trip, linked to the emissions their cars make. This would average out at five pence per kilometre “on top of existing fuel taxes”, the report suggests, but would be “complex to deliver”.
As predicted, these ideas have been instantly attacked by the motoring lobby. “If the Scottish government had any sense they would see that taxing and charging people out of their cars would be devastating to the livelihoods of many people,” said Jennifer Dunn from the Drivers’ Alliance in London.
“To single out drivers so explicitly is hugely unfair and isn’t the way to stop climate change but it will damage local economies and people’s quality of life.”
The RAC Foundation has also questioned higher parking charges and cutting speed limits. But according to its director, Professor Stephen Glaister, some form of road pricing might be necessary to avoid future gridlock.
“Pay as you go charging needs to be considered,” he told the Sunday Herald, “Not as a new tax, but rather as a replacement to the current system of vehicle excise duty and fuel duty.”
Although the Confederation of British Industry has welcomed some aspects of the government package, it doesn’t like the workplace parking charge. David Lonsdale, the assistant director of CBI Scotland, pointed out that this had been rejected by the previous administration in Edinburgh because it was “just another tax on business”.
But environmental groups have strongly defended the government’s plans. “Workplace parking charges will help to get people out of their cars and into public transport, and in the long run it will save businesses money by reducing the space they need to waste providing parking,” argued Dr Richard Dixon from WWF Scotland.
According to Colin Howden, the director of the transport campaign group, Transform Scotland, the proposals for cutting transport emissions were good value for money. “Most of them don't need new laws, many of them would save rather than cost money, and they would all make Scotland a more productive and civilised country,” he said.
The leaked report also suggests a series of more positive policies, including boosting the membership of city car clubs, giving motorists free training in “eco-driving” and offering £5,000 grants for buyers of low carbon vehicles.
There are plans for major investments in improving bus and rail facilities, better travel planning and incentives to shift freight from road to rail and water. Facilities for cyclists and walkers could be brought up to similar standards to those in Sweden, Germany and Belgium, the report says.
One aim is to achieve 20% of trips being made by bike. “This may require an increase in spending by one percentage point per year to a total of £90m per year by 2022,” the report suggests.
Aside from transport, the report proposes a raft of new measures on agriculture, waste and energy. These include measure to encourage farmers to cut their emissions, then to force them to do so by threatening to cut their subsidies.
Not surprisingly, the National Farmers Union in Scotland doesn’t mind the encouragement, but objects to the compulsion. “There are better, more meaningful actions that can be taken now,” argued James Withers, the chief executive of NFU Scotland.
There is a proposal for a 50% increase in the target for tree-planting to cover 15,000 hectares of new land every year; and another to ban the dumping of food and recyclable waste in landfill sites. Then there are plans to invest more than £1 billion in a major programme to improve the insulation of buildings, along with a series of other energy-saving measures.
Duncan McLaren, the chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, backed many of the proposals. Opposition from vested interests was to be expected, he said.
He called on ministers to make more effort to assess and publicise the benefits to health, economy and society. "For example, measures to promote cycling and walking instead of driving could deliver major savings to business and the public sector by reducing congestion and increasing health and fitness,” he argued.
The leaked report, which is dated 29 June 2010, points out that existing policies would only deliver a 33% reduction in carbon emission by 2020 – nine points short of the legal target. All the new policies it puts forward are needed to meet the 42% target.
The list of policies “attempts to be comprehensive but realistic”, the report says. But it adds: “It is important to note that in many areas the Scottish ministers are still considering the possible policy options.”
According to a government spokesman, papers had been made available to stakeholders to ensure an open discussion. They illustrated “a range of options that could potentially cut carbon,” he said. “The papers do not reflect government policy.”
Car-free and happy
Living in the Tollcross area of Edinburgh with their young daughter, Kaja, they had previously relied on a battered old Ford Escort and a Citroen ZX donated by relatives. But then they decided to try going car-free.
“I looked at the finances, and a car just looked pointless because we used it so rarely,” she explained. “It wasn’t an environmental thing, it was a financial thing.”
As a result, Davina (33) reckoned they had saved thousands of pounds over the past three years. “I prefer spending the money on enjoying life - nice holidays, weekends away, a nice house, theatre and meals out,” she said.
Going without a car has also meant escaping the annoying hassle of city centre parking. “It was a nightmare,” she recalled. “We had our cars towed away twice, once because it was just parked a little over the line.”
The switch was possible because she and John both work within walking distance of their offices, and Kaja’s school and ballet class were also reachable by foot. If they want to go away, or pick up furniture from a DIY store, they hire a car.
“Where we are it’s really very, very easy to live without a car,” she said. “My friends keep asking when I’m going to buy a car. Well, I’m not and I can’t see why I should have to.”
Others reduce their car use by sharing lifts to and from work, co-ordinated nationally by the Liftshare network. Alasdair Nisbet, a 42-year-old research scientist, commutes from his home in Glasgow to the Moredun Research Institute outside Edinburgh.
“Car sharing really helps financially as well as reducing pollution,” he said. “It also allows you to go back to sleep a couple of days a week while your share-partner is driving.”
In love with motoring
Jeremy Clarkson is the celebrity motorist whom environmentalists love to hate. As the presenter of the BBC TV programme, Top Gear, a columnist and a pundit, he has made a career out of cars.
Along with his wife, Frances, he is said to have owned 27 of them, including an Alfa Romeo, a Lamborghini, a Ferrari, an Aston Martin and several Fords. He is famous for hating some cars so much he smashes them up on television, and adoring others.
He has likened Ferrari to “a scaled down version of God.” And he has described the Ferrari 355 “like a quail's egg dipped in celery salt and served in Julia Roberts' belly button.”
He also likes speed. “Speed has never killed anyone,” he once said. “Suddenly becoming stationary, that’s what gets you.”
He also has a legendary venom for cyclists. “Bicycles are for children,” he said. “Like masturbation, and something you should grow out of. There is something seriously sick and stunted about grown men who want to ride a bike.”
He doesn’t seem to have much sympathy with bus-users either. “I don’t understand bus lanes. Why do poor people have to get to places quicker than I do?”
Of course many of his quips are deliberately designed to provoke opposition and publicity. But they do speak to a significant portion of the driving public, who feel strongly about their right to drive.
Pro-car pressure groups also point out that for many people there is no feasible alternative to driving. “Most people drive because it is essential to their day to day living and is not just a luxury,” said Jennifer Dunn, from the Drivers’ Alliance in London.
The 30 new policies being considered to cut climate pollution
Policies / earliest start date
Stricter enforcement of current speed limits / 2013
Cutting speed limit from 70mph to 60mph on some roads / 2013
Introducing variable speed limits and average speed enforcement / 2012
Road pricing costing motorists an extra 5p/km / 2016
£300-a-year workplace parking levy / 2013
50% increase in on-street parking charges / 2012
Boost membership of city car clubs / 2011
Free training for motorists on “eco-driving” / 2011
£5,000 grants for buyers of low carbon vehicles / 2012
Big increases in spending on cycling and walking facilities / 2011
Improved travel planning by households, businesses and schools / 2011
Incentives for councils to invest in low carbon cars / not given
Improvements in van and road freight efficiency / 2011
New fund to improve provisions for buses and taxis / 2011
Major investment in high speed rail and other rail improvements / 2011
Incentives to shift freight from road to rail and water / 2011
Using planning policy to reduce need to travel / 2011
Encouraging farmers to cut pollution and waste / 2010
Grants for anaerobic digestion facilities for farmers / 2010
Immunisation programme for cattle diarrhoea / 2014
Linking farm subsidies to cutting climate pollution / 2018
Incentives to plant 15,000 hectares of new woodland a year / 2011
Restore peat bogs to store carbon / not given
Bans on dumping food and recyclable waste as landfill / 2015
Energy saving schemes for homes / 2011
Doubling energy standards for new buildings / 2013
Leaflet campaign to boost energy efficiency / 2010
Improved energy efficiency in non-domestic buildings / 2012
New standards to cut emissions from social housing / not given
Energy-saving loans for businesses / 2010
Source: Scottish Government
Download a copy of the leaked Scottish government report here (450KB Word document).