YesScotland: not for cyclists

The SNP has shown the 7% on bikes must vote ‘no’

In 2007 I voted SNP, hoping that they would offer an alternative to the ‘business as usual’ of Labour and the LibDems. I won’t say that Scottish independence was really on my agenda at the time – but it wasn’t a simple protest vote either.

I really hoped that a party purporting to have Scotland’s best interests at heart might be a successful choice.

While in some ways the SNP have distinguished themselves, often it hasn’t been in the way I would have liked (such as removing the tolls over the Forth Bridge then putting me on the hook for the best part of a billion pounds to subsidise a replacement crossing. Nice one guys!)

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More large infrastructure projects have followed, but the SNP have steadfastly refused to support active travel. Just look at the infogram above: frankly embarrassing.

Not only have they failed to flood this key area with investment, they actually tried to slash it (leading to much protest, largely led by Spokes). Their policies were even attacked as ‘perverse’.

Salmond: cyclists are “pushing on an open door”. Yes, and it leads us back to LibLab coalition, Alex.

The SNP have failed to show the leadership that I believe is required to build a pleasant Scotland where I want to live, work, and play, and raise my children. They sometimes make nice noises but there is still no major capital fund that can be bid for (unless you want to dual a road).

Ironically, the person showing up the SNP most badly is London Mayor Boris Johnson – the Conservative last week announced sweeping investment in improving the city for residents, businesses, cyclists and pedestrians with a massive investment in active travel.

Can it really be that I helped install a government that is worse at governing Scotland than a well-to-heel Tory would be running it from a London office? It seems so.

City of Edinburgh Council is leading the way (even against London) when it comes to active travel investment in the UK, making a 300% larger commitment than Boris (in relative terms). Unfortunately a significant proportion of a small pot of cash still doesn’t go far.

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I wrote recently to highlight the plight of the Leith Walk redesign. We could have an international-standard boulevard here that is a pleasant place to be, or we could reinstate the existing seven lanes -worth of racing motors and nasty pavements lined with dying businesses.

The Council have already committed five times the annual cycling budget to Leith Walk (albiet paid for from the obscene trams budget, a drop in that ocean). Still not enough, so funding is needed from elsewhere.

We desperately need the SNP to get behind active travel with a massive investment of funds so that projects like this can be done properly. I’ve now come to the conclusion that it isn’t going to happen – SNP have demonstrated they are not fit to deliver the governance and urban change that Scotland requires.

7% of people heading to work in Edinburgh are going by bike. Numbers are growing elsewhere. We want 5% of Scotland’s transport budget, not a fraction of 1%.

We’re all voters. It’s long past time that we exercised the power that comes along with this vote to send a clear message that we will not accept the slow drip feed that the SNP is offering us.

A few people have made the point that independence (in theory) doesn’t necessarily mean a prolonged ride on the SNP bandwagon – we could all vote for their flagship policy then turn around and reject them at the ballot box at the following elections. This is true, but I feel very unlikely – how popular would the unionist vote be if it came with the caveat that Scotland would be ruled by Thatcher again (but maybe only for a while)?

Alex Salmond and John Swinney could convince us otherwise any time they like – but I know they won’t.

I’ll be voting no. Boris is showing us the way to go, and it doesn’t involve the SNP or an independent Scotland.

 

What do you think? Is there any real choice in Scottish politics at all? Drop me a comment with your thoughts…

16 Comments

  1. David Cross

    Are you not confusing the referendum on independence with an election ? You can’t choose between Boris and Alex in any circumstances but you’ve a greater say in choosing a government to your liking in an independent Scotland

  2. Dave

    Hi David,

    I don’t accept that is the case, since this aspect of transport, planning, and funding is already devolved.

    The SNP are not only laying out the stall for what a post-independence Scotland would look like, they’re implementing it (new Forth Crossing, new motorways, strangling active transport funding).

    It’s true that we can’t have Boris running Scotland (phew!) but London is breaking ground that will be easier for other cities within the UK to follow, whether through funding or any regulatory changes the DfT might make (to pick a random example).

    This wouldn’t be the case for an independent Edinburgh.

    The SNP are / will be in charge of taking the country forward and setting up or shaping the organs and direction of a new state. It’s true that we could have independence and then vote against the SNP, but I prefer to treat them as the ambassadors of a future independent Scotland.

    It’s not something I like the look of, and not something I think the growing number of people who want liveable streets should be supporting.

    Thanks for your comment,

    Dave

  3. David Cross

    Dave, I’m in agreement re transport policy but I don’t see your logic on independence. As you say transport is devolved so won’t be directly affected by the outcome of the referendum . So if you want better transport policy you need to vote for a party in Scotland that will give you that . I think independence will improve democratic accountability and will therefore improve the choices available to us at elections and our voting system increases the influence of green policies

  4. Kim

    It is important not to confuse the SNP and independence, if Scotland were to become an independent nation there is no reason to think that the SNP would remain in power. You only need look at the other pro independence party, the Greens, to see that transport policy and independence are two completely different things.

    An independent Scotland could become as cycle friendly as Denmark, if that is what the Scottish voters say they want.

  5. “such as removing the tolls over the Forth Bridge then putting me on the hook for the best part of a billion pounds to subsidise a replacement crossing”

    In fairness, if I was having to pay for the entire Forth crossing by myself I’d probably be posting some pretty irrational stuff too.

  6. Dave

    Kim – you have (much) more faith than I do. I can see your point, but to me independence is too closely tied to the SNP not to see it as a ringing endorsement of the party (rather than just one of its objectives).

    I don’t buy the idea that we would all go for their flagship scheme and then, after the dust settles, move away to different parties in which (improbably) the Greens somehow end up with a lot more power. I fear a lot more of the last few years instead, only with an SNP emboldened by success (less likely to move away from phallic bridge replacement monuments than ever).

    Quite why they think that giving most of a billion pounds to foreign corporations is better for Scots than spending that same money on local infrastructure built by local contractors is beyond me, but we could go round all day if we start to argue about that! :)

    At the end of the day, I know that the streets we live in aren’t as likely to be a deciding point for most compared with things like pensions, the NHS, being kicked out of Europe or Swinney’s financial black hole – but for me, I’m happy to draw the line here. There are too many issues not to pick one or two to use as a decision maker, and this is mine.

  7. “but to me independence is too closely tied to the SNP not to see it as a ringing endorsement of the party (rather than just one of its objectives)”

    Then you’re about as wrong as a person could be about anything, Dave. Independence is about deciding whether we rule our own country or let others do it for us. Everything else is politics.

    Sulking because you MIGHT not get your way about one particular policy is the worst reason to vote against independence imaginable. If you think a Tory or Labour government in Westminster is more likely to invest in cycle lanes than ANY Holyrood government, don’t come crying to us (where by “us” I mean Yes voters) in 2016 when Prime Minister Boris cuts the Scottish block grant by £10bn and bulldozes all the windmills so he can build a 600-foot statue of himself in the middle of the Firth Of Forth.

  8. A *nuclear-powered, fire-breathing* 600-foot statue, I should add.

  9. Dave

    RevStu, for a Yes man your grasp of which aspects of governance are already controlled by us (that is, by politicians directly elected from Scottish constituencies) seems weak. We don’t depend on governments in Westminster for transport as it is, the SNP have it in their power to allocate that huge budget however they wish.

    There’s no need to fear Westminster governance when it comes to this sort of thing anyway, as they are already committing cold hard cash to liveable streets – 50x as much as we are getting from our self-determined, self-ruled Scottish government at that.

  10. David Cross

    It does seem a bit odd, Dave, to say you don’t like what devolved government is delivering, so let’s stick with devolved government

  11. Dave

    David, last time I checked the referendum didn’t have an option for “scrap devolution” 😉

    That said, I don’t have a problem with it – plenty of great stuff has come out of Holyrood (smoking ban, Land Reform Act) that would never have come from Westminster. Would you not say that at the moment we have the best of both worlds – the stability of a large country but with decisions taken at a more local level?

    That I don’t like how the party of independence takes those decisions, and therefore don’t trust them to set up Scotland as an independent state, doesn’t seem such a big jump to me.

    As I said on CCE, it’s possible that everyone will vote for independence then immediately turn their backs on the SNP after the split (the scenario which I guess would suit me) but I don’t believe that would be the case. I fear we’d be condemned to more of the same from a turbo-charged Salmond, and the best chance of following the example we’re starting to see south of the border is to stay in union with them.

    Perhaps this is poorly articulated in the OP as the link is so implicit.

  12. “RevStu, for a Yes man your grasp of which aspects of governance are already controlled by us (that is, by politicians directly elected from Scottish constituencies) seems weak. We don’t depend on governments in Westminster for transport as it is, the SNP have it in their power to allocate that huge budget however they wish.”

    It would be hard NOT to be aware of that after the trams fiasco. But you seem bewilderingly intent on treating the referendum as a vote of confidence in the SNP. It isn’t. If you don’t like the SNP, vote for someone else in 2016 who you think will handle transport better. Don’t condemn the sick, the poor, and the disabled to wretched misery, homelessness and death under a Tory government (or a Red Tory one) just because you’re in a huff about your bike. That’s a quite mindboggling level of selfish arrogance.

  13. Dave

    You are on a cycling and lifestyle blog – what did you expect?

    I’m fortunate enough to know a few people who fall into the categories you describe and in no way are they in “wretched misery”, homeless or dead (although I appreciate the self-evident truth that if they were homeless or dead, I might not have made their acquaintance).

    If there’s a bigger turn-off to independence than this sort of ugly attempt at fearmongering I’ve yet to see it (this also applies to the pro-union campaign).

  14. Gavin

    I have to also disagree I’m afraid. One of the reasons I am supportive of independence is because I have been lucky enough to visit countries such as the Netherlands that have a very different and much more obvious interest in promoting cycling. I think it is great that on many roads between and around towns there is safe access for cycling and it is something I would absolutely like to see where I live as well. And I guess my main track of mind would be, why can’t Scotland be like that?

    I think under current arrangements cycling is given a slow, trickling down of money so that progress on cycling access and infrastructure is far slower than I’d like to see.

    It is not really fair to compare London to the situation in Scottish cities due to the far greater pot of money that is there and the size of the city which needs to grow its cycling infrastructure out of necessity for logistical, and admittedly because of a positive cultural attitude towards cycling.

    Whilst I wouldn’t expect to see Dutch or Danish style cycling infrastructure over night in an independent Scotland I really don’t understand why voting to keep things as they are would somehow lead to greater cycling access in the long run. I believe a post independent Scotland would be greener and healthier, and with a far greater control over financial levers, and of course political pressure, then I honestly believe the goal of greater cycling infrastructure to be more realistic in an independent Scotland than it would otherwise be.

  15. Dave

    Hi Gavin,

    Thanks for a thoughtful comment :)

  16. Dave

    I’m from England and what I want to know is…if the people of Scotland do vote for independence please can I come and live there. Anything to get away from the ConDems!

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