MOTORISTS should be rewarded with public transport vouchers for scrapping old cars to help Scotland recover from the Covid crisis on a greener footing, a Holyrood inquiry has been told.

The environmental charity CoMoUK also told MSPs that the Scottish Government should help GPs to “prescribe cycling”, mirroring initiatives in England to tackle obesity.

The ideas are contained in a new submission to the Scottish Parliament’s environment committee, which is examining how best to achieve a “Green Recovery” from coronavirus.

MSPs want to identify key actions for change and potential barriers for the Government, with their work feeding into the 2021/22 draft budget and the latest climate change plan.

SNP ministers have said they want the economic recovery from Covid to see a shift to low-carbon technology and jobs, instead of continuing the polluting ways of the past.

In its submission, CoMoUK, which promotes “shared transport for the public good”, said the lockdown had hampered efforts to create a greener transport system.

Although there had been a resurgence in cycling, bus and train journeys had plummeted as people relied more on private cars for travel, with new car sales also on the rise.

“A long-term depression in public transport use represents a significant challenge for the shared transport sector,” it warned.

Transport already accounts for more than a third of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions, with cars the largest source of carbon.

CoMoUK said its research showed more than 600,000 Scots households could potentially switch to a car club rather than own a car, saving 87,000 tonnes of carbon per year.

Each car club vehicle is estimated to take around 14 private cars off the road.

If people used shared bike facilities for short trips below 5km instead of taking their car, it could save another 64,000 tonnes.

The charity said the Government should introduce “mobility credits” to encourage people to get rid of older, polluting cars in return for vouchers which could be used on public transport or to take part in shared car and bike schemes.

It said ministers should also invest in the “mobility hubs” which are commonplace in many European cities, where public and shared transport facilities are brought together, with buses, trains, trams, car clubs, walking and cycle paths at the same location.

Besides cutting pollution, these also allow more city centre space to be used for housing or public realm works, rather than dedicated to car parking.

With two-thirds of adults in Scotland overweight or obese, the charity said the greater use of cycles seen during the lockdown could be built upon in the recovery, with the health and wellbeing of citizens improved alongside efforts on tackling climate change.

It said the Government should “incentivise GPs to prescribe cycling to curb obesity and utilise the public bike share fleet to provide access to bikes”, with investment in shared bikes and e-bikes for NHS hospital staff and patients to improve health outcomes.

In England, GPs are already being encouraged by the UK Government to prescribe cycling under Boris Johnson’s new strategy to tackle obesity.

CoMoUK Scotland director Lorna Finlayson said: “Shared transport schemes will improve the health of the nation, boost the environment, and help the Scottish Government hit its own net zero targets. But our sector now faces serious challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“More people are using private cars to get to work, and public transport has suffered a huge drop in use, and therefore income.

“And while that is all clearly of great concern, this inquiry presents an opportunity to change the way people move around.

“These recommendations could make a positive impact on the environment and the quality of life for commuters across the country.”

Scottish Green MSP John Finnie added: “For far too long Scotland’s transport priorities have been dominated by the motor car with other transport modes given little look in, despite one third of Scots having no car.

“In Glasgow that figure rises to fifty percent, yet the city has a motorway bulldozed through its centre.

“Offering people alternatives to the car like quality public transport and cycle share schemes is essential if we want to see cleaner, healthier towns, cities and villages.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed every aspect of our lives.

“As we plan our strategic economic recovery, it is essential that we take this opportunity to build a greener, fairer and more equal society and economy.”