AN SNP council leader has warned the Scottish Government that cities will fail to meet ambitious net zero targets unless the “drawn out” and “archaic” process to redesign streets by removing vehicle traffic is overhauled.

The appeal comes after a key cycle route in Edinburgh was held up by four and a half years due to the current process overseen by the SNP Government and Transport Scotland.

Edinburgh and Glasgow have committed to become net zero cities in just nine years’ time – but alarm has been raised over the administrative processes that need to be overcome in order to put more emphasis on cycle and walking and a move away from car travel.

The Scottish Government's 20-year vision for shaking up transport infrastructure published on Thursday, includes a key recommendation for a "high quality, safe nationwide active travel network connecting Scotland’s communities".

A separate recommendation from officials calls for the "development of active freeways on high-demand corridors in Scotland’s large urban areas" adding that priority will initially be given to larger cities such as Edinburgh.

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The vision says that "comprehensive networks of active freeways would connect outlying neighbourhoods to city or town centres"and "would allow people to readily access active freeways from their homes, schools and workplaces".

Adam McVey, SNP leader of Edinburgh City Council, has told MSPs that traffic regulation orders must be streamlined by cutting back red tape if the capital is to stand any chance of meeting its 2030 net zero pledge.

McVey said the “elephant in the room” was the need to encourage more people to cycle and walk – warning that a move from petrol cars to electric vehicles will not be adequate in cutting emissions by the scale required.

He said: “In order to redesign streets, councils have to go through a traffic regulation order process if there is opposition, which, let us be honest, there sometimes is.

HeraldScotland: A key proposed cycle lane project in Edinburgh has been held up by almost five yearsA key proposed cycle lane project in Edinburgh has been held up by almost five years

“That process is long and archaic, and it has to change.”

But Scottish Government officials have reportedly "highlighted opportunities" for the council to speed up their processes.

The council leader pointed to plans for the east-west cycleway route in the capital, which he said “will bring huge benefits for cycling and huge improvements to the walking environment”.

He added: “It was approved before I became council leader, more than four and a half years ago, but we are only now getting to the point where shovels are going into the ground to build it, because of the very drawn-out traffic regulation order process.

“Councils have to be able to change the public realm more easily.

“Of course we have to consult and engage with businesses and communities, but we need to be able to change the landscape and infrastructure of our cities more quickly and effectively if we are to see the necessary drops in carbon emissions associated with the transport that we have.”

McVey insisted that a model based on merely assuming all petrol and diesel cars will be replaced by electric vehicles “will not wash”.

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He said: “Despite the benefits of electric vehicles, cities such as Edinburgh will not be able to reach net zero by 2030 with a model that simply moves from a city congested with private cars that run on petrol to one congested with private cars that are electric.

“We need to fundamentally change the mix, and the traffic regulation order process needs to empower councils to work more quickly and deliver change more cheaply by stripping out the unnecessary bureaucracy and allowing us to drive forward change for the benefit of our communities.”

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “We are determined to help local councils, including our cities, meet their climate change targets. As part of that we have set up a traffic regulation order review group consisting of interested parties, and the City of Edinburgh Council is represented on that group.

“Local authorities now have the ability to put experimental traffic schemes in place with a minimum of seven days’ notice, whilst giving the public an enhanced consultation period of at least six months while the project is on the ground.

“Transport Scotland has previously highlighted opportunities to City of Edinburgh Council officials on how they could streamline their processes in relation to traffic regulation orders and redetermination orders.”