Yesterday was one month to go before we all Pedal on Parliament – and the Scottish Government marked the occasion with a big announcement on increased spending on active travel (it may also have had something to do with getting the announcement out of the way before the general election campaign kicks off in earnest, but we like to think it wasn’t entirely coincidental), and then letting us know that the minister, Derek Mackay, will be delighted to attend PoP this year.
Such is the murk that surrounds active travel funding in Scotland, we’re not entirely sure how much of the £10 million that was announced yesterday amounts to new spending – we make it a general rule here at PoP towers that new money is not new money until David du Feu of Spokes has confirmed it’s new money; we’ve been had that way before – but the consensus among even the coolest heads is that spending on active travel in general – and cycling in particular – has increased substantially in the last few years (again, not entirely coincidentally, since we’ve been pedalling on parliament…), while still a long way off the 10% of the transport budget that public health professionals recommend and our manifesto asks for. This is a step in the right direction, and we welcome the fact that more money has been found, and that potentially – if the road builders don’t need it all – more money may be forthcoming in the future. We’re also delighted that the minister has confirmed his attendance at PoP well in advance – and in a busy election year, too. We think these are all signs that cycling and active travel are now firmly on the political agenda, and that has happened because you have been turning out in your thousands for the last three years now to say it is important.
However – and there’s always a ‘however’ isn’t there? – we feel that this money could be much more wisely and effectively invested it if wasn’t always being announced at the last minute, depending on what the government happens to find down the back of the sofa. You can’t build a bridge by sticking on a girder or two whenever you find you’ve got a bit of cash spare. You can’t build a railway by laying a few hundred metres of track on a handy bit of level ground and hoping it joins up with the other stretch of track you put in three years ago. And you can’t build a cycling nation by piecemeal either.
We will obviously give minister Mackay a warm welcome and fair hearing when he comes to PoP. But we will also be telling him loudly and clearly that we need long-term commitments if we’re going to make Scotland into the sort of cycle-friendly nation it deserves to be. And we hope all of you will join us, and him, on Saturday 25th April in Edinburgh to pedal on Parliament