Scottish Government urged to follow Wales’ lead and cancel new road projects
The Scottish Government has been urged to follow Wales’ example and cancel new road projects to mitigate climate change.
The Senedd announced a freeze on all new road building in Wales earlier this week.
Lee Waters, Welsh deputy minister for climate change, said they must “do much more” to achieve net zero by 2050.
In the wake of that announcement, campaigners in Scotland have said Holyrood should follow suit.
Scotland has set out an even more ambitious goal of reaching net zero by 2045.
Current major road projects in Scotland include the dualling of the A9 north of Perth and the Cross Tay Link Road.
Friends of the Earth Tayside has welcomed the Welsh Government’s decision.
Is ‘build back better’ mindset flawed?
Andrew Llanwarne, co-ordinator of Friends of the Earth Tayside, said we have to “think carefully” about the sort of society and economy we want to live in.
He said: “This is how we should understand the much-used phrases ‘build back better’ and creating a ‘new normal’.
“We know that building more roads encourages increased traffic, higher air pollution and urban sprawl.”
Is it the right time for drastic measures?
Andrew argues the disruption brought about by the coronavirus pandemic makes for the perfect time to reassess major road projects.
“Over the past year, our travelling and working patterns have changed, with reduced levels of travel to work and meetings.
“We know that tackling the climate emergency is an even bigger challenge than dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, requiring changes to most aspects of our lives.”
He said it was “all very well” for government setting targets to reduce car journeys by 20% by 2030, but it “won’t be achieved by building new roads”.
“We’ve seen this before with radical targets to increase levels of cycling by 2020 that were not matched with resources.”
Andrew added: “We now need a radical shift towards investment in public transport and safe infrastructure for walking and cycling, together with a new emphasis in town planning to develop walkable neighbourhoods.
“In a place like Dundee and surrounding rural areas we need existing roads to be better maintained. We need provision of more segregated walking and cycle paths.”
Is Holyrood likely to follow Wales’ lead?
A review is being carried out to identify how the pandemic “may shape our future transport system”.
However, a Transport Scotland spokesman would not be drawn on whether freezing future road projects was being considered in light of the Welsh declaration.
He said: “All major projects within the Scottish Government’s transport portfolio are subject to significant assessment work to ensure we deliver the right schemes and minimise impacts on the environment.”
He added a balance between reaching net zero and ensuring Scotland has high quality road infrastructure must be struck.