21 November 2010
The proposals, contained in a previously leaked report, have been dropped in the latest version published by ministers last week. The U-turn has angered environmental groups, who warn that targets to cut climate pollution will be breached without moves to curb the car.
In the draft report on “proposals and policies” to combate climate change leaked in September, there were a series of ideas for discouraging car use. A cut in the speed limit on some roads from 70mph to 60mph was proposed.
So was a £300-a-year workplace parking levy, alongside a 50% increase in on-street parking charges. A road-pricing scheme that could have cost motorists an extra five pence per kilometre was also mooted.
The suggestions prompted howls of rage from businesses and the car lobby, and as a result they have all now been quietly dropped. They were omitted from a report published almost unnoticed along with the budget last week.
Bizarrely, the increased parking charges mistakenly survived in tables in the first version of the report (4MB pdf) put online by the Scottish government on Wednesday. Without them, the text made clear, the pollution cuts achievable from travel planning would be halved.
But within hours the proposed charges were excised from a second version of the report (4MB pdf) posted on the government’s website. No explanation was given for the last-minute change.
Environmental campaigners pointed out that transport was to blame for about a quarter of all Scotland’s climate emissions. “Little has been done so far to tackle the growth predicted from this sector”, said Dr Richard Dixon, the director of WWF Scotland.
“It is particularly disappointing that measures like parking charges, road pricing and reducing speed limits are not even considered as proposals when they were clearly being looked at seriously in the summer. We are undoubtedly heading for trouble on meeting climate targets if government policy doesn’t get serious.”
Dixon was also concerned that only a “bare minumum” of the policies had actually been funded in the budget announced last week. “We will be calling on the Scottish Parliament to fund more key policies in housing and transport,” he added.
He was supported by Colin Howden, the director of the sustainable transport campaign, Transform Scotland. "Politicians continue to back away from taking the decisive action needed to turn things around,” he said.
"There's no prospect of a sustainable transport system without car restraint measures. It's disappointing that these proposals have now been dropped.”
Howden also feared that funding for cycling was facing the axe. He was backed by the cycling charity, Sustrans Scotland, whose director, John Lauder, warned that cutbacks “could set Scotland back years” in encouraging active travel.
Sarah Boyack MSP, Scottish Labour’s environment spokeswoman, was worried that funding for the Forestry Commission had been cut by £8.3 million. “We are deeply concerned that the current level of rural grants for projects like tree planting could be squeezed,” she said.
“The Scottish National Party’s pledge to plant 100 million trees in the next five years is looking increasingly unlikely as their current efforts would need to treble.”
The Scottish government said that it had made clear in its discussions with stakeholders that some of the ideas had just been put forward for debate. “It was concluded that annual emissions reductions targets could be met each year to 2022, including the 2020 42% target, without some of the measures debated,” said a government spokeswoman.
“Parliament is now scrutinising the draft report, alongside the draft budget, and has the opportunity to offer views on the proposals, policies and funding options.”