Ian McCall: The climate emergency demands an ambitious Transport Strategy

As the deadline for responses to the National Transport Strategy nears, our Senior Policy Officer, Ian McCall outlines our perspective in light of the climate emergency and air quality concerns

Family walking to a bus stop in Dundee

Transport Scotland is consulting on its draft National Transport Strategy. This will help ensure that the Vision, Priorities and Outcomes are right for transport in Scotland for the next twenty years. They are seeking views on the draft – you can have your say on it before 23 October.

Paths for All will be responding. We generally support the vision but would like to see more ambition – given the climate emergency we face. We cannot settle for business as usual – or just doing the wrong thing better.

Much has happened in the last 12 months that is significant for the strategy. Since the IPCC Special Report on the impact of global warming was published last October, the public mood on climate change has been transformed. The report points to transport emissions as a cause of climate change and the need for system change in transportation as part of the solution. 

Transport is now Scotland’s biggest sectoral challenge in relation to climate. Emissions from transport have increased each year since 2010. We have seen a continuing decrease in walking for travel and bus use coupled with an increase in car use.

The Scottish Parliament has just passed a new climate law for Scotland, with stronger targets and commitment to increasing action in the next decade. Given this ambition there is a need to make very significant progress within the 20-year life of this strategy. 

Transport has a negative impact on air quality and that increases the risks of diseases such as asthma, respiratory and heart disease. Air quality is often worse in areas of deprivation and is a health inequality issue. If the strategy lives up to its vision people will have less concerns about air quality affecting their health. 

We are at a unique moment in time to make changes to the way we plan and design where we live and work and how we travel. A top priority must be a transport system that enables us to choose walking, cycling and public transport for everyday journeys over using the car. 

As well as meeting climate targets, improved health and wellbeing should be key outcomes from the strategy – which we can achieve if walking and cycling are a bigger part of our daily lives.