The proportion of pupils travelling to school by car reached its highest level in Scotland in 2019, according to new research.

Charity Sustrans Scotland found pupils walking and taking the bus hit record lows over the same period.

Its Hands Up report surveyed 78.9% of all state schools in Scotland as well as private schools and nurseries.

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It found 41% of state school pupils walked to school, 23.8% arrived by car, 16% used the bus, 4.1% cycled and 2.7% used a scooter or skated.

The proportion arriving by car is the highest level since the survey began in 2008, when it was 21.5%.

Walking is down from 45.8% in 2010, while bus use has dropped from 18.2%. But cycling to school is now at its highest recorded level.

The findings also reveal a difference in travel between independent and state schools.

A total of 44.5% of pupils from independent schools are driven to school, whereas 23.6% of state school pupils arrive by car.

Sustrans Scotland’s national director John Lauder said travel patterns will have now changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“What we have seen during lockdown, with fewer cars on the road, is that people will change their behaviour if they feel their streets are safer,” he said.

“Travel patterns will have inevitably changed as a result of lockdown.

“It is important we make it easier and safer for children, parents and teachers to travel in an active and sustainable way.”

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He added: “Our streets cannot afford more congestion and air pollution, and our children cannot afford more inactivity after months of home-schooling.

“Let’s bring back something better. We need to make it easier and safer for children, parents and teachers to travel in an active and sustainable way once schools reopen in August.

“Only then will we be able to ensure that walking, cycling and scooting is seen as a viable alternative to the private car.”

The Hands Up Scotland Survey was funded by Transport Scotland and carried out in September 2019 by Sustrans Scotland in partnership with all 32 Scottish local authorities.