Published: 28th JANUARY 2021

Executive Director of Sustrans Scotland calls for action to be delivered now in front of Holyrood’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee

On 27 January, our Deputy Chief Executive & Executive Director, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, John Lauder appeared with other experts from the transport sector at the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. They came together online to discuss the Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan update.

Watch John's speech. Please note this video contains information licenced under the Scottish Parliament Copyright Licence.
Blockquote quotation marks
The door is open and with more funding we can do a lot, lot more in Scotland… the rest of the UK looks to us for leadership. Blockquote quotation marks
John Lauder, Executive Director of Sustrans Scotland

John spoke about a variety of subjects from emissions targets to e-bikes as well as funding for an ‘Active Travel Freeway’.

And he emphasised that the evidence and expertise are all there to achieve the environmental gains the government are aiming for.

To make this a reality, however, a coherent delivery plan aligned to the National Transport Strategy and significant investment is needed now.

We’ve summarised his key points below.

Make walking, cycling and wheeling an option for everyone

John called on the government to increase investment now to make walking, cycling and wheeling an attractive and accessible option for people.

And shift away from private vehicle use for short journeys of 5km or less, that make up 53% of trips by car in Scotland.

Whilst Sustrans holds significant Transport Scotland funding for walking, wheeling and cycling infrastructure, the investment has fallen behind the need.

Blockquote quotation marks
The work is patchy, we don’t have coherent networks in our towns and cities and in our rural areas that are safe and attract people to choose not to use the car for every day short trips. The majority of trips by car in Scotland are under 3 miles. Blockquote quotation marks
John Lauder, Executive Director, Sustrans Scotland

We need increased investment now to make walking, cycling and wheeling an attractive and accessible option for people.

Meeting the demand for active travel

John noted that Sustrans were delivering some really innovative projects in Scotland.

But ‘our budget to deliver active travel infrastructure with local authority partners is at capacity, so we have a great opportunity now to grow the budget to meet demand’.

With the majority of Scotland’s workforce currently at home, it’s an ideal moment to start delivering convenient and green ‘20 minute neighbourhoods’ in much of Scotland.

He called for funding priorities, political leadership and a coherent national strategic plan to deliver a reduction in carbon in the transport sector.

He was clear that active travel, walking, cycling and wheeling can play a full part in reducing emissions alongside public transport, particularly the bus.

Sustrans can show great examples across Scotland in towns and also successful rural initiatives, but with better investment we could do so much more.

Blockquote quotation marks
We know that the public will take the option to walk and cycle when it’s feasible and when it’s safe to do so, and that means the northern European model of segregated cycling and walking lanes. Blockquote quotation marks
John Lauder, Executive Director Sustrans Scotland

Delivering a network of ‘active travel highways’

John received a follow-up question on the necessity of £50m of government funding specifically for ‘Active Travel Freeways’.

In response, he confirmed that separate investment was needed for a coherent network of active travel highways.

A ‘trunk road network for cycling and walking’ would open up active travel in Scotland and be economically beneficial, especially for rural areas.

More clarity on the scope and nature of the £50m fund is needed, as well as more investment.

The time to act is now

The evidence and expertise are all there. The time to consult, investigate, and explore are over. The time to act is now.


Watch the full public section of the Rural Economy and Climate Committee meeting in which John Lauder appeared as an expert witness.

The recording is available until 26 February 2021.

Share this page

Read our latest news in Scotland