Comment from Sunday Herald, 03 February 2013
Scottish ministers, like elected politicians the world over, have long been reluctant to introduce measures that would make motoring less attractive and more expensive.
But evidence of the multiple ways in which our addiction to private cars is harming us is growing, and is difficult to dispute.
As the Sunday Herald reveals today, cars and other motor vehicles produce noise and air pollution in our urban centres, threatening the health of millions of people.
According to scientists, they are also a leading cause of the global warming that is dangerously disrupting the climate here and abroad. Yet, in the Scottish Government's long-awaited plans to cut climate pollution published last week, transport is by far the weakest link.
Ministers have nearly halved the carbon reductions expected by transport proposals by 2020, and have made some heroic assumptions about as-yet-unknown breakthroughs that are going to deliver massive reductions in 2025-27, causing critics to wonder whether they are banking on personal jetpacks or Star-Trek-style transporter beams.
This isn't going to work. Without major reductions in transport pollution, all the Government's fine and oft-repeated words about world-leading climate targets will be meaningless. It has to match its ambitions with actions to cut car use.
This may not be easy, but it's not impossible. The benefits to public health and local communities of reducing car use and cutting speed are clear and incontrovertible, so should be popular.
In particular, public transport must be made an increasingly attractive alternative to driving. The public will not give up their preference for the car if public transport is too expensive and often crowded. It is difficult to see, for example, how recent rises in the cost of train tickets will make carbon-reduction targets any easier to meet.