Transport is not just about how we get from A to B – it impacts on every area of our lives.
From getting to work to tourism, business deliveries to the environment.
So the national transport strategy, which details the government’s vision for the next 20 years, is a complex balancing act, tying in with many other government strategies and priorities.
As such, it’s not a document that can be quickly drafted.
Indeed, it has taken one and a half years to get to this point – with some 60 Scottish organisations and around 3000 people having helped to steer the new vision.
Described as a catalyst for change, the success of the strategy also depends on people buying into it.
And it’s for this reason that Transport Secretary Michael Matheson is keen for members of the public to now have their say.
He said: “The strategy sets out the government’s vision and priorities for the next 20 years.
“We all have a stake in our transport system and our environment.
“That’s why it’s so important as many people as possible get a chance to feed into this process – before the strategy is finalised at the end of the year.
“There’s already been a significant amount of consultation with 3000 people involved in shaping the draft. Now we want to reach out to the public and local organisations the length and breadth of Scotland to get their feedback.
“I would encourage everyone with an interest to consider the new strategy and to join the conversation.
“The consultation is available online but we will also be going out to communities across rural, island and urban locations in the next 12 weeks where it would be great to hear as many views as possible.”
The strategy aims to protect our climate as well as meeting the needs of its people and businesses.
It’s a fine balancing act but the government believes the strategy will tackle climate change, help the economy prosper and improve our health and well-being.
There will also be more accountability with proposals for citizens’ panels and a delivery board.
However, the strategy only provides a broad overview of the direction the government is taking, rather than a detailed action plan.
Michael explained: “It sets out the direction we will be travelling in for the next 20 years, with the clear intention that this will not sit on a shelf gathering dust.
“The delivery plan, which will be released when the strategy is finalised, will be updated every year to see how much progress has been made on the objectives.
“That plan will contain far more detail on what we, as a government, plan to do to meet our targets.”
While the government will, of course, lead the way, every Scot has a part to play in the strategy – particularly when it comes to our climate.
Michael said: “Scotland has the most ambitious targets for tackling climate change in the world.
“The Climate Change Bill, currently before the Scottish Parliament, includes an increased ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with a net-zero emissions target by 2045.
“Transport is currently the largest contributor to Scottish emissions.
“This will be tackled through a range of actions including an ambition to phase out the need for new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032.
“We will promote and design our transport system so that walking, cycling, public and shared transport are promoted ahead of private car use.
“However, we also need to help people make the transition to lower carbon travel – to walk or cycle for short journeys, if they are able to, or use public transport ahead of single driver car journeys.
“That will not only help to reduce car emissions, which are currently responsible for the most greenhouse gas emissions, but will also help people become more active, improving their health and well-being.
“There is no doubt in my mind that our climate is changing. The Beast from the East ably proved that.
“It cost the UK economy at least £1 billion per day as gridlocked roads and no trains or buses meant many workers were unable to get into work.
“We are experiencing more severe winter weather, coupled with summers which are hotter and wetter.
“That should serve as a real wake up call to us all that we need to change our behaviours now.
“Government has a major part to play but we each also have a personal, individual responsibility to take action to ensure we minimise the impact that we’re having on the environment.
“We have to get this right for future generations, given the impact it could have on their lives.”
Michael admits that it may be a struggle to wean people away from their cars.
For the car remains the dominant mode of transport in Scotland.
In 2017, 65 per cent of all journeys were made either as drivers or passengers in a car or a van. This was up from 64 per cent in 2016 and 61 per cent in 2012.
The proportion of single occupancy car trips also shows an increasing trend. The figure of 66 per cent in 2017 compares with 64 per cent in 2012 and 62 per cent in 2007.
But with 37 per cent of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions caused by transport, and cars being responsible for the lion’s share, our love affair with the car has to change.
It’s for that reason the Scottish Government is moving fast to rid our streets of petrol and diesel cars.
The move to electric cars by 2032 – the most ambitious target in the UK – should help meet the emissions target.
It has also recently introduced low emission zones in Glasgow city centre, with Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen set to follow.
However, with bus trips also in decline, the government has a major job to do in persuading people to change their habits.
Michael said: “We need to encourage people to make greater use of public transport.
“That, in turn, will help reduce congestion in our cities and towns – as well as reducing emssions.
“A double decker bus can take up to 75 passengers while occupying little more road space than a single car.
“Bus use generally has been in decline since the 1960s for a number of reasons, one being longer journey times caused by congestion on the network.
“If we can tackle that, people will be more inclined to travel by bus once again.”
Technology, both existing and yet to be dreamed up, will also have a role to play.
Michael added: “The rail electrification project proves what we can do – we need to be ready and able to introduce new technologies.
“However, what people want today and in 20 years is the same – linking people and places in ways that are reliable, affordable and safe.
“Our strategy will be a catalyst for change.
“By focusing on our priorities and delivering the outcomes, Scotland will have a transport system that demonstrates to the world that it is open for business.”
The strategy opened for public consultation on Wednesday, July 31, and will close on Wednesday, October 23.
The consultation team will be going out to train and bus stations across the country in the coming weeks to guage public opinion.
Members of the public are also being encouraged to have their say online.
Visit consult.gov.scot/transport-scotland/national-transport-strategy to have your say.
If you have any questions, you should email NTSReview@transport.gov.scot.