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Scotland releases updated NTS2 National Transport Strategy

The updated Scottish National Transport Strategy (NTS2) has today been announced by Michael Matheson MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity. Scotland’s new National Transport Strategy sets out an ambitious and compelling vision for Scotland’s transport system for the next 20 years.

This Strategy advocates a vision for Scotland's transport system that will help create a sustainable, inclusive, safe and accessible transport system that protects the climate and improves our lives. This is a Strategy for the whole transport system (people and freight) that also considers why we travel and how those trips are made. It includes walking, cycling, and travelling by bus, train, ferry, car, lorry and aeroplane. It is a Strategy for all users travelling to, from and within Scotland. There are four interconnected priorities to deliver the vision:

Reduce inequalities: everyone benefits from a modern and accessible transport system

Take climate action: we are all able to make travel choices that minimise climate impacts

Support economic growth: deliver sustainable and inclusive economic growth across Scotland

Improve health and wellbeing: transport will be safe and enable a healthy, active and fit nation

We are facing a global climate emergency, and this NTS2 strategy recognises that the move to low and zero carbon transport is essential to our future wellbeing. In response to the global climate emergency, the Scottish Government has made one of the most ambitious climate commitments in the world to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. The role of transport in achieving this target will be crucial and will require further development and use of low carbon technology over the 20-year period of this updated Strategy. It will also require significant societal changes, including a reduction in the demand for unsustainable travel.

NTS2 recognises the role of low carbon transport as part of the energy system, with Scotland as a leader in research and development into harnessing the potential for hydrogen energy. The Strategy highlights the importance of continued working with the H&FC sector to encourage and support further research in the roll out of new environment enhancing technologies into cleaner fuels, in particular for hard to treat applications such as heavy duty vehicles, trains, and marine applications such as ferries. This will explore with industry best options and a viable approach to reducing emissions.

Air quality in Scotland’s towns and cities is improving, but emissions from road transport are not reducing at the anticipated rate. Road transport remains a significant contributor to poor air quality. Air pollution increases the risks of diseases such as asthma, respiratory and heart disease, particularly for those who are more vulnerable such as the very young and the elderly or those with existing health conditions. In addition, air quality is often worse in areas of deprivation and is a health inequality issue. These are areas where the use of zero emission transport technologies such as fuel cell buses and freight logistics can make a significant contribution to air quality and health targets.

The effective movement of goods is essential for trade and sustainable economic growth. Scotland’s transport network supports the functioning of over 360,000 businesses. Delays on our transport system have a significant impact on firms that rely on their produce being delivered on time and to the level of quality their customers expect, such as those firms in the farming and fishing sectors.

Freight is transported around Scotland by road, rail, air, sea and inland waterways. In 2018, total freight (excluding pipeline and rail) carried in Scotland was approximately 214 million tonnes. Road freight made up the largest proportion (69%) followed by sea (31%) and then air (less than 1%). The vast majority of freight lifted in Scotland (111 million tonnes) was carried by road and remained within Scotland. Although long-haul makes up the bulk of mileage and uses the largest vehicles, the wider social and environmental impacts of urban and last-mile distribution are more readily visible to the public, as the growth of freight traffic in busy urban areas can worsen congestion and air pollution. These are areas where hydrogen and fuel cell drivetrains and auxiliary power can make a significant contribution to reducing GHG emissions, air pollution, and noise.

The NTS2 has also developed Policies for each of the four Priorities. The Policies are not exclusive to each of the Priorities and will contribute to a range of cross-cutting themes. For example, some Policies which contribute to ‘Takes climate action’ will also have positive impacts on ‘Improves our health and wellbeing’. The Policies are high-level statements of intent aimed at achieving the Vision, Priorities and Outcomes. Importantly, overarching all the Policies, to address the challenges and achieve the Priorities the NTS2 will embed the Sustainable Travel Hierarchy in decision making by promoting walking, wheeling, cycling, public transport and shared transport options in preference to single occupancy private car use for the movement of people. NTS2 will also promote efficient and sustainable freight transport for the movement of goods, particularly the shift from road to rail.

Future investment decisions will be assessed against their contributions to supporting this NTS2 Strategy, and in particular how they will impact the climate action outcomes and wider climate change targets. A Sustainable Investment Hierarchy will be used to inform future investment decisions At the national level and ensure transport options that focus on reducing inequalities and the need to travel unsustainably are prioritised. We also need to focus on maintaining and safely operating existing assets, taking due consideration of the need to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Investment promoting a range of measures, including innovative solutions, to make better use of existing capacity will then be considered, ensuring that existing transport networks and systems are fully optimised. Only following these steps will investment involving targeted infrastructure improvements be considered.

This updated NTS2 National Transport Strategy presents the strategic framework for Scotland’s transport system over the next 20 years. Clear priorities have been set out which provide a strong focus on ensuring transport contributes to reducing inequalities faced by people in Scotland, takes action to protect our climate, supports the delivery of inclusive economic growth and improves the health and wellbeing of our citizens. We all have a responsibility for delivering the Strategy and making sure it is a success. Working with partners involved in developing the Strategy, Transport Scotland will publish a Delivery Plan that will set out how the Strategy will be delivered.

The NTS2 Delivery Plan will be regularly updated and provide detail on how the Priorities and Outcomes will be achieved, and how the Vision will be delivered in line with the Policies set out in this Strategy. The Delivery Plan will also align with the Strategy’s Sustainable Travel and Investment Hierarchies. The Delivery Plan will report annually on performance in addressing the challenges and achieving the Outcomes. The Strategy will be flexible, through the Delivery Board, and will adapt to emerging and changing evidence.

Link to NTS2 press release: https://www.transport.gov.scot/news/transport-strategy-for-next-twenty-years/

Link to National Transport Strategy: https://www.transport.gov.scot/media/47052/national-transport-strategy.pdf

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