SNP ministers have been criticised for a lack of “concrete plans” over how it will deliver a “world-leading” commitment to cut car traffic by 20 per cent in the next nine years.

Fears have been raised the poorest Scots could be priced out of being able to afford electric vehicles or public transport as part of a “modal shift” needed away from petrol and diesel vehicles.

The Scottish Government have been warned that its pledge to cut car traffic cannot become reality while it continued a policy of expanding capacity on trunk roads.

In its delayed climate change plan update, published in December, the Scottish Government announced a commitment to reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2030, which it describes as a “truly world-leading aspiration”.

Transport is Scotland's biggest emitting sector – making up more than one third of the country’s total carbon emissions in 2018. But minister have stressed it is a “particularly challenging sector to decarbonise”.

HeraldScotland: Scotland's emissions reductions since 1990Scotland's emissions reductions since 1990

The Government has stressed it “will take a cross-sectoral effort” in order to “reduce people’s need to travel with more local access to goods and services”.

The report adds that “the Scottish Government is committed to exploring options around encouraging remote working to reduce kilometres driven as part of commuting”, which made up 23% of all journeys in Scotland in 2019.

In order to help encourage a drop in permanent commuting car traffic, ministers have been told to divert money being spent on bolstering road capacity into digital connectivity such as improved broadband connections.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s air pollution campaigner, Gavin Thomson, said: "People in Scottish streets have choked on polluted air for years after legal deadlines were due to be met, and transport is the worst performing sector in terms of climate emissions.

HeraldScotland: Anticipated reductions in transport emissions up to 2032Anticipated reductions in transport emissions up to 2032

“The explicit commitment to reduce the total road kilometres driven is very welcome given transport’s devastating impact on people and planet. However, this 20% reduction target so far lacks any detail about the actions that will deliver this change.”

He added: "Coronavirus has seen an unprecedented increase in cycling across Scotland, for key worker commutes and for exercise. The ‘spaces for people’ initiative has been very effective in easing social distancing by widening pavements, changing priorities and creating pop up cycle lanes. By making these changes permanent and scaling up investment in walking, wheeling and cycling, we would enable even more people to make these positive choices.

"The increase in working from home and use of video conferencing could prove to be enduring changes that significantly reduces the need for commuting. By investing in digital connectivity rather than pouring billions into road expansion, the Scottish Government can build on these societal changes and reduce our car dependency."

The Government's £3 billion plans to dual the A9 between Perth and Inverness are set to continue “as efficiently and effectively as possible” despite the difficult financial climate.

Ministers still hope to bring forward plans to dual the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen.

The Scottish Greens have called for the expansion projects to be binned.

HeraldScotland: Greens transport spokesperson, Mark RuskellGreens transport spokesperson, Mark Ruskell

Greens environment spokesperson, Mark Ruskell, said: “All the Scottish Government does is talk up its targets when it comes to the climate emergency without meaningful action to achieve them.

“We’ve known since the 1960s that expanding roads actually increases traffic, so unless the Scottish Government u-turn on their trunk road expansion programme, traffic reduction will be unachievable."

“Only the Scottish Greens recognise that investment in public transport and active travel is urgently required to provide a better choice.”

The Scottish Conservatives have called for more investment in public transport infrastructure in order to move people away from car travel.

The party’s transport spokesman, Graham Simpson, said: “Everyone recognises that the climate emergency is one of the biggest challenges facing us going forward. However, we need to hear concrete plans from the SNP rather than just warm words on cutting transport emissions.

READ MORE: SNP told to draw up delivery plans for climate emergency strategy

“A car is a necessity for people living and working in our rural communities. If the SNP are serious about cutting emissions, then they must invest heavily in upgrading our rail and bus networks by working closely with our transport sector.

“They can’t simply be guessing people will be working from home for the foreseeable. SNP ministers must ensure that there is much greater detail in their climate change plan as to how ambitious targets will be met.”

Labour has warned it is vital that people are not left behind in the move to a more sustainable Scotland.

Scottish Labour environment spokesperson, Sarah Boyack, said: “Emissions are damaging to the environment and are a real risk to public health.

“It appears that the SNP has no plan to tackle emissions.”

She added: “We need a recovery plan for affordable and green public transport which persuades people back onto buses and trains.

READ MORE: Warning as Scotland's car traffic surges amid pledge for 20 per cent cut

“Electric cars will be too expensive for many people so the Scottish Government urgently needs to set out a plan to say how it is going to ensure that in areas with low or no public transport people are not excluded.”

A strategy as to how the Scottish Government will meet the road kilometre target is expected to be published by the end of 2021.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have committed to provide an additional £50 million for ‘active freeways’ - further to more than £500 million over five years already committed for active travel infrastructure.

“We’ve also outlined demand management measures through the Transport Act – empowering local authorities with powers to enforce low emission zones and discretionary powers for workplace parking levies.

“Over a third of people in Scotland already enjoy free bus travel, with the forthcoming extension in concessionary bus travel to those under 19, and proposed extension to those under the age of 22, up to 930,000 additional young people will be able to benefit from free access to sustainable public transport. We have also set out our long-term investment of over £500m in bus priority infrastructure to encourage sustainable travel choices.

“We are also making it easier to switch to an ultra-low emission vehicle with a range of loans and grants funded by the Scottish Government and delivered through our partners at Energy Saving Trust. To date, over £85 million has been provided to help people make the switch to ultra-low emission and electric vehicles. The low carbon transport loan will be extended to cover used electric vehicles for the first time.”