Active travel strategy criticised as costly exercise with little to show for itself

The Scottish government’s active travel strategy has come under fire as a bureaucratic research exercise with little to show for itself.

Members of the the SIC’s environment and transport committee questioned whether the millions of pounds poured into the programme had provided value for money.

Shetland Central member Catherine Hughson asked “how much research and studies does the government need before they decide to get on and do something?”

“Because they are costing a lot of money and that could be going into our infrastructure which is much needed.”

Chairwoman Moraig Lyall noted that the SIC had already developed a list of around 300 potential active travel projects – from dropped kerbs to extensive cycle paths – and suggested it was time to call a halt on any more studies.

While Mrs Lyall said there had been lots of money available for researching possible projects, she noted there had been less cash to follow through with their implementation.

With a lack of capacity in the construction sector to build such projects, Mrs Lyall said there ought to be a “pause” on any more studies and a focus on progressing those already in the pipeline.

“So we can actually begin to see some of these things in play on the ground.” she added.

Development director Neil Grant said some of the projects had stalled due to land ownership issues, with his team focussing on others to make the most of the available government money.

Roads manager Neil Hutcheson highlighted recent schemes including the A970 south road roundabout in Lerwick as well as in Aith, Brae and Whalsay.

Head of transport Michael Craigie said design work was progressing for a cycle path between Lerwick and Scalloway, as well as feasibility studies for routes between Lerwick and Tingwall and Scalloway and Tingwall.

Mr Craigie said a report would be presented to councillors at the next cycle of meetings showing which active travel schemes had been progressed alongside recommendations for which of the 300 others should be prioritised.

Following questions from Shetland South member Alex Armitage, Mr Craigie said the overall strategy was to start from a “core network” connecting Lerwick, Scalloway and Tingwall before branching out to connect other population centres, such as Gulberwick and Cunningsburgh.

Development chairman Dennis Leask said the “public debate” around active travel tended to suggest it was a waste of council money that would be better spent on other projects – when in reality it was government funding ring-fenced for active travel.

Mr Craigie said there was £320m available for active travel projects next year alone.


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