We’re expressing disappointment after confirmation that cycling and walking funding in 2015/16 will fall by several million pounds next year.
A report this month on cycling levels showed that on average, just 1% of Scots used cycling as their main mode of travel, despite 63% of journeys being under 5km. The Scottish Government wants to see 10% of journeys made by bike by 2020.
The percentage of the national transport budget spent on cycling and walking projects has yet to reach 2% in any financial year. Scottish Green MSPs have a longstanding commitment to spend at least 10% of transport spending to transform infrastructure and training to make cycling and walking more attractive and accessible.
Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian and Co-convenor of the Cross Party Group on Cycling, said:
“I’m disappointed that the new Transport Minister hasn’t managed to keep cycling and walking funding going up and that Scots continue to miss out on the high-quality infrastructure that other countries enjoy.”
“The Scottish Government has failed in every year of this Parliament to spend even 2 per cent of a £2 billion annual transport budget on making cycling and walking a more attractive and safer option. We just won’t see the potential rewards for people’s health and well-being without serious investment.”
After last year’s high of £39.1m (1.9% of transport spending), the budget for this year will be around £35.8m (1.7%).
We’re stepping up our call for Scottish ministers to go beyond current policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions following the latest warning from the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
The Scottish Government has missed the first three annual emissions
reduction targets and today’s CCC report, which echoes last year’s,
warns that more action is needed to meet future targets, and that there
has not been enough progress on transport and renewable heat.
It recommends action on energy efficiency and highlights the Scottish
Government’s policy of cutting air passenger duty. Following repeated
questioning by Scottish Green MSPs the Scottish Government admitted
that its policy of halving APD would increase carbon emissions by up to
60,000 tonnes a year.
“This is the latest in a series of warnings that the Scottish
Government is failing to match Scotland’s ambitious climate change
targets with bold policies. Ministers are simply not listening to the
range of voices pointing out the action that’s needed, especially on
transport and housing.
“Deputy first minister John Swinney agreed with me that making our
housing stock energy efficient should be a national infrastructure
investment priority so he needs to go further than the £20million
announced in the budget. And on transport we still see less than two
per cent spent on cycling and walking while ministers pursue the aim of
increasing air travel. It’s becoming harder and harder to take this
government seriously on climate change.”
Reducing emissions in Scotland 2015 progress report – Committee on
Estimate of the Impact on Emissions of a Reduction in Air Passenger
Duty in Scotland
Patrick is renewing his call for the Scottish Government and Fife Council to develop a jobs plan in light of today’s news that Longannet coal power station in Fife will close after failing to win a National Grid contract.
“Long before now the Scottish Government and Fife Council should have been drawing up a plan for jobs so that workers at the plant and the wider economy had a secure future. Given the unsustainable emissions from the plant, and the progress being made with renewables and grid upgrades, Longannet was always going to close.
“We urgently need to focus on developing new local employment, planning a transition for local workers and harnessing the potential from renewables and energy efficiency for the wider community.”
Longannet is one of the most polluting power stations in Europe (BBC)
Green amendment to last month’s energy debate called for “focus on a just transition for workers”. SNP, Conservative and Libdem MSPs voted against; Labour MSPs abstained.
Responding to the UK budget speech, the Scottish Green MSPs say the Chancellor’s rosy depiction of the economy is not being felt on the ground, with low wages, insecure employment and welfare sanctions continuing to reinforce poverty and inequality in the UK.
Alison and Patrick are leading a debate in Holyrood today on in-work poverty, and are campaigning for a £10 minimum wage by 2020.
Patrick Harvie, MSP for Glasgow, said:
“This is not a plan to make the UK a fairer or more sustainable society. Instead of an eye-watering £1.3 billion subsidy for fossil fuels, the Chancellor could have provided a gigantic boost to locally-owned clean energy or backed the return of our railways to public hands.
“This Coalition has delivered five years of hacking away at the public good and at the foundations of our welfare state. It’s been a devastating and costly campaign by an elite in Westminster and the prospect of another round should terrify everyone who is fighting for social justice in this country.”
Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian, said:
“The Westminster coalition try to paint a rosy picture but what they describe will seem to many like a fantasy economy, far removed from the reality of rising rents, insecure low paid work and the misery of welfare cuts. The Greens want to see a £10 minimum wage and the small rises announced today are completely inadequate in a world of extreme high pay at the top.”
This week we’ll lead a Holyrood debate on the need to end in-work poverty, and will put to a vote the case for all those working or in training to get £10 an hour by 2020.
We’re highlighting the fact that the apprenticeship wage is currently only £2.73 an hour for those in their first year, which means that some young people up to the age of 25 are working 30 hours a week for a monthly wage packet of just £327.60.
On Wednesday at Holyrood we’ll invite other parties to vote on a motion which calls for a £10 minimum wage for all by 2020, and other measures such as a tax to redistribute the wealth of the richest one per cent in society.
Patrick, a member of Holyrood’s economy committee, said:
“Hundreds of thousands of working age adults in Scotland are living in poverty. They have been let down by an economic policy pursued by successive governments, wrongly assuming that if we make the rich richer some of that money will trickle down.
“At the same time we’ve seen the welfare system being used to subsidise poverty wages when we should be putting real money in people’s pockets for them to live decent lives. It’s simply unacceptable that someone in their mid-twenties can be in an apprenticeship earning less than £3 an hour. What sort of message does this send about the value we place on our young people?
“By making sure everyone’s wage meets their basic needs we can get to grips with the inequality that is doing so much damage in our country.”
Questioning the Minister for Europe at Holyrood today, Alison Johnstone called on the Scottish Government to broaden their stance on TTIP, the free trade treaty currently being negotiated between the US and the EU.
She highlighted figures contained in a new report from Westminster’s Environmental Audit Committee on the difference between chemicals regulation in the US and EU. 1300 chemicals are restricted for use in cosmetics in EU countries, whereas only 11 are in the US.
The Minister, Humza Yousaf, replied that while the Scottish Government has raised a number of concerns with the UK Government, TTIP as a whole is “difficult to oppose without seeing the final agreement”.
Alison Johnstone said:
“This deal risks much more than our precious public services. There is a real risk that important environmental and public health protections will be weakened by this treaty, which would undermine decades of political progress towards a more sustainable world. Overall the components of TTIP add up to an assault on public protections with little evidence of any reward, and it should not be so difficult for the Scottish Government to oppose this.”
Patrick Harvie is calling on the Scottish Government and Fife Council to develop a plan to create secure jobs to compensate for the inevitable closure of the Longannet coal power station in Fife, instead of pretending to workers that this reality can be ignored.
During today’s session of Holyrood’s Economy and Energy Committee, Mr Harvie questioned senior figures from National Grid and Scottish Power. They confirmed that due to the pollution it generates, alongside carbon pricing and transmission costs, Longannet will have to close regardless of any possible temporary stay of execution. National Grid also confirmed that due to grid upgrades and increasing renewable energy capacity Longannet will not be needed for security of supply.
Patrick Harvie MSP said:
“The responsible approach to the Longannet situation is to come up with a plan for jobs so that workers at the plant and the wider economy can have a secure future once fossil fuel power generation is ended. It is clear that renewables and grid upgrades are making progress, so the security of supply argument falls apart.
“While others are pointing the finger of blame I believe we must focus on developing a jobs plan, involving employees and local communities and looking towards clean technology, energy efficiency and other sectors. Avoiding doing so is simply irresponsible.”
Longannet is one of the most polluting power stations in Europe (BBC)
Green amendment to last month’s energy debate called for “focus on a just transition for workers”. SNP, Conservative and Libdem MSPs voted against; Labour MSPs abstained
Ahead of today’s Scottish Parliament debate (Wed 4 Mar) on plans to open up the NHS Central Register to other public bodies, Patrick is warning that data security, privacy and civil liberties are at serious risk.
Patrick raised concerns about the proposal with Deputy First Minister John Swinney last month, and this week arranged a meeting between the DFM and campaigners from the Open Rights Group, at which alternative approaches were set out.
Scottish Greens have longstanding concerns about the idea of a centralised ID database. 10 years ago Patrick Harvie led a debate at Holyrood against the UK Government’s plans for ID cards.
This week the Information Commissioner’s Office said that the proposals to open up the NHS database risk breaching data protection laws and privacy standards.
“There is a growing range of voices warning against the Scottish Government’s proposals. Allowing wider public sector access to data from the NHS central register sounds like an ID database in all but name.
“It’s important we examine these proposals in public, and the Information Commissioner’s comments have brought welcome additional scrutiny. I would urge John Swinney to listen to the serious arguments against this proposal, and change direction. There are better ways of achieving his policy objectives without going down a route abandoned by the UK Government years ago.”
The Green amendment submitted but not selected for debate:
“and considers that full privacy impact assessments must be carried out on the existing use of the Central Register and Entitlement Cards systems as well as on any proposals for a change in their use.”
ID cards in any guise must be opposed (Patrick Harvie)
Patrick Harvie questions John Swinney, 19 Feb 2015
Greens lead debate against ID cards, 2005
Alison today (3 Mar) highlighted a report into local government funding challenges by think-tank Fiscal Affairs Scotland.
The report says restricted funding for councils could lead to service users being charged more and that some services are at risk.
“Reforming council finances, and freeing our local authorities to pursue local priorities, are crucial issues. This report highlights the pressure our councils are under to cut services and increase charges, with the Scottish Government’s unfair and unsustainable council tax freeze coming home to roost.
“Green councillors tell me of community centres facing closure, and staff reductions affecting nurseries and schools. We’re also seeing home care rates increase and healthy lives affected by increased rates at sports centres.
“We are long overdue a revival of our local democracy, and Greens are taking part constructively in the Local Tax Commission with a view to seeing councils raise the majority of the funds, and able to choose from a variety of fairer options including our own preferred system of Land Value Taxation.”
Commenting on publication today (3 Mar) of the Scottish Government’s new economic strategy, Alison said:
“Tackling inequality must be at the heart of Scotland’s economic strategy, given the appalling gap between the rich and the rest, and the opportunity we have to create prosperity with our skills and resources. A resilient Scottish economy should be based on Scottish businesses and small enterprises, not multi-national companies who jump ship for a new tax-break.
“The Scottish Government’s assurance that it doesn’t want a race to the bottom on corporation tax is a notable shift in position, but it remains a concern that it’s still putting so much faith in growing exports when it could be focusing much more on strengthening our local economies. It’s also interesting to note the plan to devise a replacement tax for Air Passenger Duty. The highly profitable aviation sector does not pay its fair share of tax, and it is essential that it pays for its environmental impact rather than simply passing costs onto consumers.
“We also need to see the Scottish Government showing how serious it is about tackling tax-dodging multinationals. Companies such as Amazon have benefited from millions of pounds in grants from the taxpayer. This sort of corporate welfare must stop.”