Scotland ‘Goes Irish’ With Huge Boost to Active Travel Funding

Edinburgh, Scotland

Spending on active travel initiatives in Scotland is set to more than treble to nearly £60 per (A$115) person per year – an unprecedented sum for anywhere in the United Kingdom – within the next two years following the publication of the draft shared policy program of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Green Party on Friday 20th August.

These parties hold 64 and eight seats respectively, a total of 72 of the 129 Scottish Parliament, giving them a comfortable majority to implement their policies.

Put into perspective compared to Australia, there is no specific ongoing funding of active transport at a federal level, and state government funding, specifically for cycling typically ranges from $10 to $15 per person per annum which is between 0.6% and 1.5% of each state’s annual roads budget. (Source: The Conversation. Cycling and walking are short-changed…)

The parties have agreed to, ‘increase the proportion of Transport Scotland’s budget spent on Active Travel initiatives so that by 2024-25 at least £320 million (A$615 million) (per year) or 10 percent of the total transport budget will be allocated to active travel.”

That’s around a threefold increase on the 3.5 percent of the transport budget currently allocated to active travel.

As we previously reported, last June the Republic of Ireland legislated that 20% of their total transport budget would be spent upon walking and cycling with two-thirds of the remainder upon public transport.

The Scottish measures clearly only go half as far percentage-wise but were probably at least in part inspired by the previous Irish initiative.

The Scottish agreement also provides that in order to promote active travel:

  • Local authorities will be encouraged to deliver more Safe to School initiatives, with the aim of ensuring every child who lives within two miles (three kilometres) of school is able to walk or ride safely.
  • All appropriate roads in built up areas will have a safer speed limit of 20 mph (30kph) by 2025. A task group will be formed to plan the most effective route for implementation.
  • Transport Scotland will work with Police Scotland to develop a one year pilot project to develop an online reporting system enabling anyone to upload camera footage of dangerous driving.

Jim Densham, Cycling UK’s campaigns and policy manager for Scotland said, “This agreement is fantastic news for cycling in Scotland and shows that this government and the Greens are serious about working together to create a Scotland where cycling, walking and wheeling are easy and attractive options.

“This investment in active travel is an absolutely vital step in tackling the climate crisis and creating a healthier, happier, more attractive and low-carbon Scotland.”

Click on the link to see the full Scottish draft policy program (which includes a much broader range of policies beyond just active travel).

A longer version of this article was first published on


  1. Stephen Hodge on 13th September 2021 at 3:48 PM

    Whichever way you look at the issues all governments face – addressing congestion, equity in transport accessibility, de-carbonisation of the transport fleet – active travel provides a serious response for all the short, local trips we do every day (around 50% are 5km or less). To see the Scottish government committing to spend 10% of its transport budget by 2024-25 on active transport is fantastic. This is well over $110 per person or a 3-fold increase on current expenditure which is already at 3.5% of their transport budget (Australia languishes at around 0.6-1.5%).

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