Using public transport should be something we can be really proud of in Scotland. By Ralph Roberts

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The Scottish Government’s recent Scottish Greenhouse Gas Emissions statistics do not make for happy reading. Transport emissions increased by 2.2% between 2016 and 2017, mainly due to an increase in emissions from road transport. 

In fact, while transport emissions as a whole have increased by 0.4% between 1990 and 2017, road transport emissions have increased by 11.1%. This is due to a growth in activity over the period offset partly by improvements in the efficiency of vehicles.

To put these figures in context, we are living and working in a time that is post declaration of a climate change emergency. Our government has reacted by committing to Scotland becoming net-zero emissions by 2045.  

These statistics are entirely unacceptable. 

HeraldScotland:

Ralph Roberts is Vice Chair of CPT Scotland

As citizens of Scotland we all need to play our part and consider carefully how we expect to travel, heat our homes and generally consume. Meanwhile, our political leaders need to be prepared to make brave decisions and re-evaluate how transport is funded and delivered. 

Within this evaluation public transport – particularly by bus – has to be at the forefront of our thinking. Not as a problem to tackle but as a solution to embrace. 

Buses are the first target for Scotland’s LEZs. They are among the biggest vehicles on the road. They must be to blame. 
In fact, buses are responsible for 4% of greenhouse gas emissions from road transport (as opposed to 59% from the private car) and the sector is investing heavily to further reduce that figure. Indeed, 5% of the UK bus fleet is zero emission already. 

The case for bus use is even stronger when you consider emissions on a per passenger basis. One full bus can replace 75 cars on the road. 

Cities that prioritise buses, cycling and walking reap societal benefits in terms of improvements in health, inclusion, accessibility. Research suggests that every £1 invested in bus priority measures generates up to £8 in wider benefits. Investing in bus transport is also good for the local economy. Cities such as Utrecht and Copenhagen, with their progressive sustainable transport focus, have disproved the myth that the car is vital for the high street. 

It is already the case more people access Scotland’s town centres by bus than any other mode and spend £54 per trip on average. 
However, bus use is falling as our road network becomes ever more congested. Many of these lost journeys will be people reverting to cars. Reversing this trend – thereby reducing road transport related emissions and capturing the benefits of bus growth – should be a priority for our policy makers.

2045 is a reasonable distance away but work to accomplish this has to start now if we hope to change the national mindset. 
A paradigm shift is required.  

We need to introduce an evolution of the narrative around how we should expect to use our road space. This should be driven by central government and cascaded to local communities. 

Once the narrative takes hold, the introduction of the changes required becomes a much less contentious issue. The introduction of the smoking ban following the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005 is an example of how this approach can succeed.

With regards to transport, government should invest in infrastructure that prioritises sustainable and active modes. Make walking, cycling and bus all viable and attractive options before restricting car use.

Sweden recently added two words to the national vocabulary: flygskam (flight shame) and tågskry (train brag). These encapsulate the recognition on the environment of our travel choices. 
I do not want to endorse environmental shaming but can we all really justify every car trip we take? Taking the bus should be a badge of pride. 

To its credit, the Scottish government is investing heavily on the rail network to lower emissions and improve journey times. Now is the time to similarly invest in bus infrastructure, particularly given that 75% of all public transport trips in Scotland are taken by bus 

Direct public investment towards those that are making choices in line with Government policy on climate change. If this really is a climate emergency, we need to see a change in thinking and that starts at the top. 

Ralph Roberts is Vice Chair of CPT Scotland