In December last year I travelled to Paris to witness the global climate negotiations. My trip was inspiring, and as we know, the climate agreement was significant.
On the 4th November, the Paris Agreement came into force, as 74 countries have now ratified the agreement. This includes some of the biggest emitting countries – China, USA, and a number of EU countries – and the Prime Minister has committed the UK to ratify by the end of the year.
Ban Ki Moon asked us to join hands again, across countries, across the sectors, to communities – to meet the greatest challenge that humanity has ever faced – climate change.
I am clear that the election of climate change denier President Elect Trump must not be allowed to derail the global commitments made in Paris and being developed in Marrakesh. China has made clear that its involvement is not dependent on the US presidency.
Transport is the 2nd biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, accounting for 27.7% of total emissions. In terms of reducing emissions, it is a neglected sector – from 1990 to 2014, there has only been a 2.8% decrease.
This is one of the reasons why the Scottish Government can be accused of picking the low hanging fruit to tackle climate change.
Low emission vehicles
80% of urban pollution comes from traffic, pumping out fumes that contain toxic gases and particles which can serious damage health. Across the UK, it shaves an average of 7-8 months off of everybody’s life expectancy, but children, the elderly and those in poverty are affected the worst. There are hot spots here in Glasgow.
Scotland currently has 269 low emission buses – and rolling out low carbon public transport schemes across the country would be a significant step towards tackling our transport emissions. It will also address climate change and our health.
More broadly, there is an urgent need for an integrated affordable public transport system which works without delays and cancellations and connects and is properly ticketed. The Scottish Government has done very little for rail. Neil Bibby has exposed cancellations and delays by Abellio. I have also challenged the SNP on the new Borders Railway- it is shameful and sends a very bad signal both to commuters heading for our capital and for tourists heading to the Borders from across the globe.
We need a people’s railway for workers and passengers. The Co-op Party, Aslef and SERA are pushing for this in the new franchise. This demands a change in the law and we need to push hard for this- time is on our side with still several years to plan and act. We need a people’s railway to connect to the peoples buses.
And Cycling must be part of the model for sustainable transport.
During the last Parliamentary term, I was pleased to co-convene the Cross Party Group on Cycling. I designed “Community Links Plus”, a streetscape design competition to promote active travel, that the Scottish Government took on. The winning entry was South City Way in Glasgow, and I look forward to seeing other parts of the country enter the competition and continue to improve their cycle and walking networks.
The CPG will be reconvened this parliament as the CPG for Cycling, walking and buses. An opportunity for co-operative models to be further explored and to connect with the transport minister- if he is still in post!
40% of people in Rural Scotland do not own a car and many would be willing to use the bus if it existed.
As a South Scotland MSP, you will, I’m sure, know how rural some of the region I represent is. Transport in general and especially buses is a real issue not only for the most isolated settlements in the region but also for people in the larger towns.
My Councillor colleague Lynsey Hamilton says, “In Clydesdale, at the start of 2014, a local bus route from Law Village to Wishaw General was cut during the Christmas Holidays as the bus company no longer saw it as profitable. This caused great distress to the people in a small rural community as after Christmas they found they had no way to get to work, the doctors or even to get their shopping as not everyone has a car. We worked hard with SPT to try and find a solution to this crisis. When local bus companies were asked to reroute into the village, which seemed like the most workable alternative, these bus companies refused to do so as they feared they would lose out on passengers to the competition. If the buses were regulated in the way that Scottish Labour and Co-op Parties wish them to be, the companies would not have the option to refuse this alternative, they would have to do it!”
The SNP have the power to re-regulate the bus industry but continually put profit before passengers. Further examples of this are in the Borders.The Edinburgh to Carlisle route has been reduced to running only once every two hours and only every hour from Carlisle to Galashiels. This should not be the case in a modern Scotland.
Community transport must be a complement not an alternative to statutory services. I know of many valuable community transport initiatives in South Scotland. One such is the support given to Age Concern in Peebles by Tweedwheels. A minibus collects members of the group from isolated rural places and they can get together, cutting isolation and loneliness. When a teacher in Clydesdale, we were able to use Rural Development Trust buses for outings with our own volunteer drivers, cutting costs radically.
Often a household will have only one car in a rural place and community transport enables a carer to get into the local town with an elderly family member once another member of the family has gone to work.
There are also opportunities for car clubs run on the co-operative model.
Co-operative models can also support bus and cycle maintenance and should be considered for manufacturing in the transport sector for the future.
The Land Reform Act came into being in the last session of the Scottish Parliament and there are opportunities for ownership of bus routes which can be explored as well.
A proper bus system serving the people and workers is what we need here in Scotland.
Let’s support the Peoples’ Bus Campaign.