2007 - 2021

Electric Brae

The Scottish Governments announcement of a new set of low-carbon policies is to be welcomed.  Nicola Sturgeon declared yesterday the country would end the sale of new petrol and diesel-powered cars by 2032. The deadline on new petrol and diesel cars puts Scotland eight years ahead of a target set by Westminster in July. France has also set a date of 2040.

“Our aim is for new petrol and diesel cars and vans to be phased out in Scotland by 2032 – the end of the period covered by our new climate change plan and eight years ahead of the target set by the UK government,” Sturgeon said on Tuesday.

“As members will be aware, we don’t currently hold powers over vehicle standards and taxation. However, we can and will take action,” she said

Sturgeon said her plans are to “massively expand” the access to charging points and to make the A9 Scotland’s first “fully electric enabled” motorway, making it immediately dubbed the ‘Electric Brae’.

The road (the longest in Scotland), will have charging points installed along its length from central Scotland through Inverness and up to Scrabster Harbour in the north.

Transform Scotland called it: “Good news for active travel, air quality and cutting carbon emissions.” More here.

Given the frantic state of the car industry’s lobbying efforts [car industry lobbyists have met with the German government to discuss the VW dieselgate scandal and pollutant emissions more than once every two days since the scandal broke in 2015] – it seems like in this, and a lot of other social policy announcements, third sector Scotland really does have clout. This is a porous, responsive government.

We are now potentially in a virtuous circle – where car manufacturers who have anticipated a continued shift among international and municipal governments (such as France, acrid, Mexico City), have outlined plans to move towards greener energy alternatives: Volvo is only going to make new hybrid and all-electric vehicles starting in 2019, the new Nissan Leaf out next year (going head to head with the Tesla Model 3) has a range of 150 miles.

This is not just about cars. One of the most positive aspects of the raft of polices announced is the sense that they might actually be thought-through and even joined-up.

On air pollution and transport – the Government will: introduce Low Emission Zones in Scotland’s biggest cities by 2020; set a target of phasing out new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032; turn the A9 into an electric superhighway; and double the budget for cycling and walking.

Dr Richard Dixon of Friends of the Earth said:

“Phasing out new petrol and diesel vehicles is a big step forward for tackling air pollution and climate change emissions. Setting a date of 2032 puts Scotland among the most ambitious countries in the world on vehicle electrification, and the announcement of an A9 electric superhighway also sends a very important signal on the future of motorised transport in Scotland.”

But Transform Scotland Director Colin Howden took a more cautious note:

“It is vital that the Government does not rely solely on a ‘techno-fix’ approach to transport. To cut congestion, get people active and deliver larger improvements in air quality and carbon emissions, the Government needs to shift its focus to public transport and active travel, rather than private car use.”


Yesterday’s Programme for Government revealed a welcome commitment to establish a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee by 2020.

Richard Dixon commented:

“Low Emission Zones, which restrict the most polluting vehicles from the most polluted places, are a life saving intervention which will improve people’s health and help urban centres thrive. It is great news that the Scottish Government has committed to introducing LEZs in every major city in Scotland by 2020. Now we urgently need details of where the first LEZ will be otherwise the 2018 deadline promised earlier this year will not be met.”

Transport Minister Humza Yousaf announced a consultation on LEZs:

“The Scottish Government is seeking views on how best to put in place LEZs following a commitment made yesterday to introduce LEZs into Scotland’s four biggest cities by 2020. Additionally, the Scottish Government will shortly announce the location of the first LEZ which will be put in place in 2018.”

The consultation will be available via the Transport Scotland and Citizen Space website until 28 November 2017. Views can also be shared on Twitter using the hashtag #lezconsultation.

On cycling and active travel Richard Dixon commented:

“Pedestrians and cyclists will see huge benefits from the doubling of the budget for active travel. Walking and cycling improve our health, improve air quality and cut carbon from the transport sector, and this investment signals the start of a real step change by the Scottish Government. We hope that this increased investment continues and call for the Government to ultimately spend 10% of its transport budget on walking and cycling by 2020.”


If this can be combined with an actual functioning public transport system, then this will be genuinely game-changing.

Next up: fracking.


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Comments (9)

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  1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    I think that FoE and transform are right on this that we have to look at the whole package rather than the headline grabbing phasing out of diesel and petrol car sales and the electrification of the A9, welcome as these things are.

    The increase in the Active Travel budget is welcome. Most private car journeys are less than 5 miles and so the provision of good walking and cycling infrastructure and improvements to public transport – more shorter route shuttles, ‘oyster type ticketing to facilitate inter modal travel – could encourage many drivers to leave the car in the garage for such journeys. Companies and organisations could review travel expense policies – freeze car travel expenses and provide allowances for cycling and walking, provide ‘oyster type’ cards instead of paying expenses.

    The LEZ regulations when they are implemented could further reduce car usage, if they include things like imposts on the amounts of emissions, congestion charging, parking restrictions. If air quality is demonstrably improved more people might be persuaded to walk and cycle.

    Now that the Queensferry Crossing and the M8 are completed, let us direct more capital expenditure to installing significant amounts of segregated cycling and walking infrastructure which go by the most direct routes between key residential, retail, entertainment and work locations and, this most obviously means repartitioning existing road space to reduce the proportion for cars and increasing those for walkers, cyclists and buses.

    There are plenty of ideas out there, let us now begin to implement them.

    1. Justin Kenrick says:

      Excell News, excellent article, excellent comment.

      Autonomy, independence and interdependence is the ability to walk and cycle, to rely on a safe, quick and affordable public transport system, and to use electric vehicles when necessary.

      Dependence, passivity and mutual resentment is sitting stuck in traffic that is not moving, is polluting, and is made by us as we sit in it, and by us all if we don’t grab this chance to break free.

      1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

        There are other good things beginning to be unearthed. The proposed transport bill contains proposals about dealing with ‘obstructive and inconsiderate parking’. This should, at last deal with those drivers who park partly or wholly on pavements, across driveways, in service lanes (preventing access for rubbish uplift and emergency services0, across firepaths, across cycle lanes, at corners, nose-to-tail parking which presents an impenetrable barrier to those trying to cross streets, etc.

        These things are significant contributors to congestion and the increased emissions which are thereby produced. They also slow the progress of buses, because, they also park in bus lanes and then contest the fines and get support from most of the media in flaunting the law.

  2. AliT says:

    Here’s the thing. I am broadly supportive of green solutions, but electric cars have two fundamental issues. Range and cost. Range of 150 miles is not acceptable to most people when oil fired cars can go 400+ per refill. Whilst most car journeys can be short, many are not. The recharge time for these vehicles makes them useless for anything other than short hops. Additionally the sheer cost of buying one is a disincentive. You can get a small car for a third of the price of a small electric one (new). There is still effectively no market for used electric cars that I am aware of, so this is a heavily middle/upper class virtue exercise. Not to knock it, but it’s not going to solve the issue until cost comes down and range goes up.

    1. Justin Kenrick says:

      Actually you can get 160 mile range now with the new Renault Zoe and the Leaf planned for the end of 2018 looks like having a 230 mike range.

      I always find the criticism of middle class people making good choices weird. As if we would be better off if they made bad choices! But maybe I’m missing the point.

      1. Indeed – and the point made in the article is that if you have the right infrastructure then you entree a virtuous circle where the car companies compete to advance technology in new markets as old markets close. However the criticism of electric cars as essentially still private transport is valid – hence the line ‘If this can be combined with an actual functioning public transport system, then this will be genuinely game-changing.’

        1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

          I think this point is worth emphasising: while electric powered cars are to be welcomed in terms of reductions in emissions, private cars are the principal cause of congestion in our towns and cities and we still require actions to encourage less usage, especially since most journeys are less than 5 miles.

          Good public transport is essential. Alexander Dennis of Falkirk is a world leader in the production of low emission buses, so enhancing the fleet, will also provide a boost for the economy. We need more smaller and frequent shuttle-type buses connecting with the main bus routes. We need to consider extending the rail network. And, most of all we need an ‘oyster-type ticketing system, where we can transfer from bus to train to ferry to Subway.

          We also need to enhance and extend the walking and cycling infrastructure.

          I am broadly in favour of more ‘shared spaces’, and I hope we can engage constructively with groups campaigning for better and safer access for people with disabilities to produce effective solutions. My experience following the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act around the turn of the century was that by improving access for people with disabilities, we improved access for all. I am sure that the campaigning groups will be wary of sections of the media who are publicising campaigners’ concerns, but who are consistently pro-motoring in their attitudes. Sup with a long spoon!

          1. Pogliaghi says:

            Shared space is not a panacea (or usually even particularly helpful.) The conversion of segments of Kirkintilloch High Street to shared space has merely created a more hostile and confusing environment for pedestrians, and especially for disabled users. The practice that works to encourage modal shift away from the private car in urban areas is almost the diametric opposite of shared space, namely segregated infrastructure for cyclists (which also removes the very minor subjective hazard of cyclists on pavements, although that is mostly a canard). Fortunately campaigns like Spokes and Go Bike have largely slain the shared space chimera in local government planning in favour of segregation.

  3. Pogliaghi says:

    “Next up: fracking.”

    An ironically appropriate note for Bella to end on. As no-one in the Scottish green subculture will have noticed the final closure of our two nuclear plants’ overlapping with the mandatory EV sales phase-in will make the whole thing a dead letter. Unless these are in fact, mostly-methane cars. (Or if said subculture have finally noticed this, they’re deeper in a state of denial about it than Tom Cruise sharing an on-screen clinch with John Travolta).

    The larger point remains entirely germane though. Of course techno-fixes are not going to sort Scotland’s carbon footprint. If the move towards a Dutch-style transport culture was as readily heralded by our media as ‘sexy’ (sic) EVs and renewable projects we might, as a country, have something resembling a clue. But plain common sense suits too few of the vested interests to attain critical mass.

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