1. Background

1.1 Aim and Outline

This is a strategic document that sets out the interventions we will put in place to support people to live healthier, fairer and more sustainable lives by choosing alternatives ways of accessing goods, services, amenities and social connections. While the publication of the route map supports a national conversation on sustainable travel, the document is aimed predominantly at national, regional and local stakeholders. We will also engage with businesses, communities and individuals as part of the national conversation going forwards.

In the first section of our route map we introduce the policy context that has led to the target, as well as the benefits that we will gain from achieving the target; in the second section we describe the current situation and evidence that has been used to inform our framework of interventions; in the third section we describe the package of interventions and in the fourth section we outline the future work that we will undertake, including additional work with national, regional and local-level partner organisations. Additional background information is provided in the route map annex.

1.2 Guiding principles

The first principle of our route map is that it is collaborative. It has been developed jointly with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) and this reflects the key role that partnership working with local government and Regional Transport Partnerships, as well as with our delivery partners, public sector organisations and businesses, will play in achieving our target. It is recognised that there is further collaborative work to do to ensure that national-level policy is effectively translated into meaningful local-level change, including through the inclusion of the target in Regional Transport Strategies.

Secondly, the approach is not one-size fits all. It is a national ambition, but it will require a bespoke, place-based approach to create the conditions for travel behaviour change in communities and settlements of varying types and scales across the country. While a large percentage of the population of Scotland is clustered in urban centres, we recognise that in rural areas and island communities it may be more difficult for individuals to replace existing car trips with other modes, particularly where the current level of accessible public transport provision and connectivity is limited. Interventions that focus on alternative digital and hub-based models to allow people to access goods, services, amenities and social connections, as well as opportunities to combine and share car trips will be particularly relevant in these areas. It is important to remember that the percentage reduction target is for an overall national reduction, and we do not expect car use in rural and island community areas to necessarily reduce at the same rate as in towns and cities.

Thirdly, it is underpinned by our commitment to a just transition (Just Transition Commission) to zero greenhouse gas emissions as well as to the community wealth building principles of creating benefits and opportunities equally for people across Scotland. This will be achieved by empowering communities to join our national conversation on sustainable travel. People will be supported to make alternative travel choices that help strengthen local economies and allow everyone to share in the benefits of taking climate action, while ensuring that those least able to pay are not unfairly burdened and that existing inequalities are tackled, not exacerbated.

1.3 Policy context

Scotland’s Climate Change Plan update (CCPu), published in December 2020, sets out a commitment to reducing car kilometres by 20 per cent by 2030, to enable us to meet our net zero emissions target by 2045. Transport is Scotland’s largest sectoral emitter, accounting for 29% of total greenhouse gas emissions (Scottish Greenhouse Gas Statistics: 1990-2019. Scottish Government, June 2021). Within transport, the mode of travel that produces the most CO2 is car use. In 2018, cars accounted for 38 per cent of Scotland’s transport emissions (Carbon Account for Transport N.12: 2020 Edition. Transport Scotland, 2020). Further information on the modelling behind the 20 per cent reduction target is provided in the route map annex.

The CCPu states that while technological solutions will be key in in some areas, transformational change is also required, with behaviour change and demand management needed to meet our emissions reduction targets. This is because transport is a derived demand – where people live, work, learn and access goods, services, amenities and social connections are all key to the need to travel. In order to reduce car kilometres we need to take action to address the location of services and facilities and to enable increased online access, as well as supporting people to change the mode by which they make existing journeys. This reduction will require cross-sectoral effort that goes beyond transport policy.

In parallel with the CCPu, the Scottish Government’s National Transport Strategy (NTS2) sets ‘taking climate action’ as one of its four key priorities. The NTS2 also outlines the Sustainable Investment Hierarchy with ‘reducing the need to travel unsustainably’ places at the top. This is complemented by the Sustainable Travel Hierarchy which promotes walking, wheeling, cycling, public transport and shared transport above private car use (ibid).

The forthcoming second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2), alongside other national plans such as our fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4), CCPu, Infrastructure Investment Plan (IIP) and National Strategy for Economic Transformation will help to deliver the vision, priorities and outcomes for transport set out within NTS2.

STPR2 is a whole-Scotland, objective-led, evidence-based review of the performance of the strategic transport network across all modes – walking, cycling, bus, rail, road and wider island connectivity. It will set out how the recommended investments will contribute to net zero greenhouse gas emissions and inclusive prosperity, as well as delivering on the other NTS2 priorities for our transport system: to reduce inequalities; take climate action; and improve our health and wellbeing.

As we continue to lead a green recovery from the pandemic, it has never been more important that we take evidence-based decisions regarding how Scottish Government invests public money. Investing in policy and infrastructure, both transport and non-transport, that supports reduced levels of car use is essential in order to deliver a healthier, fairer and more prosperous Scotland for our communities, businesses and visitors.

1.4 Social context

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to significantly impact every area of life in Scotland and the recovery from the pandemic presents us with an opportunity to live and work differently. During the initial lockdown when traffic volumes were much lower many people had the opportunity to experience the benefits of quieter, less polluted streets that for many felt safer and more pleasant to walk and cycle in. People also had the opportunity to explore how their needs, in terms of access to goods, services, amenities and social connections could still be met while travelling less and staying closer to home.

Some people in certain job roles were able to shift to working from home, and survey data from July 2021 shows that 38 per cent of people think that they will work from home more often in the future (COVID-19 Public Attitudes Survey Data: Wave 19. 30 July 2021). While flexible working can have important impacts for reducing commuter travel, as well as helping people to gain the social and wellbeing benefits of living more locally, is recognised that home working will not be feasible for many job roles, nor will it be practical for individuals with desk-based roles who lack home environments suitable for work. Furthermore, there is a potential for any emissions savings from reduced travel to be offset by increased home energy emissions (Climate Exchange. Emissions impact of home working in Scotland, 2021), and so we must continue to facilitate sustainable commute options, in addition to enabling people to work from home where feasible.

It is important to recognise that, while the immediate impact of the pandemic on travel behaviours has been significant, the longer-term impacts, which might still be felt by 2030, are estimated to be small when compared to the level of economy-wide change needed to meet Scotland’s emissions targets (Element Energy. Decarbonising the Scottish Transport Sector, September 2021). We must therefore capitalise on the opportunities seen through recent, temporary changes in travel behaviour and support individuals with the policy and infrastructures changes that are needed to enable more significant reductions in car use going forward.

1.5 Just transition

We recognise that there will be some people for whom reducing car use, particularly in the short-term, will be more challenging, including those in rural and island community areas; individuals with specific disabilities or businesses for whom car use may be more necessary. However we also recognise the inequity of a status quo that facilitates car use at the expense of other modes, when those on lower incomes as well as younger and older people, women, disabled people and certain minority ethnic groups are less likely to have access to a car (Scottish Household Survey, 2019, reported in Scottish Transport Statistics no.39, 2020), (Transport Scotland. Disability and Transport, findings from the SHS, 2021). Widening access to private vehicles would only increase the prevalence of the negative external impacts of cars, which we know already fall disproportionately on the most vulnerable in society (Douglas et al. Health and Transport: A Guide, Scottish Health and Inequality Impact Assessment Network, 2018).

Our route map has been therefore been developed in line with our commitment to a just transition to a net zero society, whereby we increase access to goods, services, amenities and social connections through sustainable means, without widening access to private vehicles. We are also committed to ensuring the costs do not burden those least able to pay, and the benefits are felt regardless of where people live, who they are and what they do. It important to remember that the target is for a 20 per cent reduction in total car kilometres across Scotland rather than a target for all regions of Scotland or indeed all individuals within Scotland to achieve the same percentage reduction in car use. It is also important to reiterate that we are committed to maintaining access to goods, services, amenities and social connections by private vehicle for individuals such as those with specific disabilities who lack feasible alternative options.

1.6 Wider benefits of reducing car use

In addition to addressing climate change, a reduction in car use will also support the other three priority areas set out in NTS2: to ‘reduce inequalities’; ‘help deliver inclusive economic growth’; and ‘improve health and wellbeing’. Reducing the dominance of private cars will also improve our public places, making them more attractive, safer and healthier spaces in which to live, work and spend leisure time, as well as contributing to wider priorities set out in our National Performance Framework.

1.6.1 Reducing inequalities

Transport impacts on equalities by providing access to education, employment, healthcare and the other goods, services, amenities and social connections that promote prosperity as well as health and wellbeing (NHS Health Scotland, Inequalities Briefing 4: Place and Communities, 2016), (Chatterjee, K., Clark, B. Nguyen, A., Wishart, R., Gallop, K., Smith, N., Tipping, S. Access to Transport and Life Opportunities, Department for Transport, 2019), (NatCen. Transport and inequality: An evidence review for the Department of Transport. 2019). It also impacts on equalities through the unequal distribution of the negative impacts of unsafe or unsustainable transport (Douglas et al. Health and Transport: A Guide, Scottish Health and Inequality Impact Assessment Network, 2018), (NatCen. Transport, health and wellbeing: An evidence review for the Department of Transport, 2019). In 2019, at a national level, 60 per cent of households with less than £10,000 annual income had no access to a car, while for those with an annual household income of £50,000 or above, the figure was only 3 per cent (Scottish Household Survey, 2019, reported in Scottish Transport Statistics no.39, 2020). While those on low incomes in rural areas are more likely have access to a car than in urban areas, car access in rural areas is by no means universal. Car access and usage is also lower amongst other groups including women, older and younger people, disabled people and people of non-white Scottish or British ethnicities (ibid). Yet for many decades policy and investment decisions have prioritised space and access for car users.

This has meant that people that are unable to use a car can be excluded from safely accessing certain destinations, whilst also suffering the negative impacts from other people’s car use. Inequitable transport policy can combine with income inequalities to create transport poverty, whereby people face either the risk of social isolation, or the risk of debt from spending on car use (Sustrans (2016) Transport Poverty in Scotland). By reducing car use in Scotland it will also be possible to reprioritise space and investment in streets and public spaces so that they can be accessed safely and easily by everyone, not just those who have access to cars, thereby helping to address transport poverty and deliver a fairer Scotland. Access by car will remain an option for journeys where no other travel behaviours are feasible.

1.6.2 Helping deliver inclusive economic prosperity towards a wellbeing economy

The efficient and reliable movement of people and goods is essential in order to achieve inclusive economic prosperity. However high volumes of traffic and inefficient road space allocation leads to congestion, which can have a significant negative impact on the economy (Congestion cost UK economy £6.9 billion in 2019), (Sustrans (2017) Active travel and economic performance: A ‘What Works’ review of evidence from cycling and walking schemes). Car use, including the high proportion of single-occupancy car trips and space used for parking, contributes to inefficient use of road space and worsening of congestion. By reducing individual car use we can make street space available for other more space-efficient modes of travel, including walking, wheeling, cycling and bus and coach use, which can help reduce congestion and improve journey times for all road users (Sustrans. Reducing car use: What do people who live and drive in towns and cities think? 2019). This is important for the economy overall, but it is particularly important in order to enable inclusive economic prosperity, by enabling those without access to a car to travel safely and reliably to reach education and employment opportunities.

Reducing car use can also have economic benefits at a local level, with research showing that investment in public realm improvements, including those to encourage walking, wheeling and cycling, can deliver significant benefits to businesses, with strong evidence that people walking spend more than people arriving by car (Living Streets. The pedestrian pound: The business case for better streets and places, 2018), (Sustrans. Common misconceptions of active travel investment: A review of the evidence. LWCIP Strategic Report, 2019). This can also support inclusive economic prosperity, as it helps to ensure local businesses and local more easily accessible jobs are protected.

1.6.3 Improving health and wellbeing

Car use impacts negatively on the health and wellbeing of both car users and non-car users. Pollution from tyre and brake wear, which also occurs from electric vehicles, is a significant contributor to poor air quality, with an estimated 1,700 premature deaths attributed to air pollution in Scotland each year. Car use also contributes to thousands of road casualties. Car use reduces people’s opportunities for active travel, with physical inactivity known to lead to nearly 2,500 deaths in Scotland annually. Furthermore, cars contribute to noise pollution and community severance, with traffic and parked vehicles acting as a barrier to community interaction and having a negative impact on the quality of public spaces (Douglas et al. Health and Transport: A Guide, Scottish Health and Inequality Impact Assessment Network, 2018), (NatCen. Transport, health and wellbeing: An evidence review for the Department of Transport, 2019). It is important to note that the negative impacts of car use including from poor air quality and injury have been found to disproportionately affect more vulnerable members of society, including children and older people, as well as those living in more deprived areas (Teuton et al. Transport use, health and health inequalities: The impact of measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Public Health Scotland, 2020).

Car use also contributes to climate change which already impacts on health and wellbeing through the physical and mental impacts of extreme weather events such as heatwaves and flooding (Vardoulakis and Heaviside. Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK 2012. Health Protection Agency, 2012). Conversely, freeing up space otherwise used by private vehicles provides opportunities to create more green and open spaces for communities to enjoy, contributing positively to levels of health and wellbeing. In addition, green spaces and active travel infrastructure can assist with sustainable urban drainage, reducing the impacts of flooding, while the planting of street trees can provide shade and help combat urban heat island effects, giving more space to nature and pedestrians and offering greater resilience to extreme weather events.

As outlined in the section on reducing inequalities, transport systems enable people to access the goods, services, amenities and social connections that are essential for good health and wellbeing. A transport system designed around car use can make access more difficult for non-car users, thus limiting their ability to reach health-promoting opportunities (NatCen. Transport and inequality: An evidence review for the Department of Transport. 2019). Creating healthy and sustainable places and communities where people can travel by active travel or public transport is consistently identified as a key action to improve health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities (Marmot, M, Allen, J, Boyce, T, Goldblatt, P, Morrison J. Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review ten years on. London: Institute of Health Equity, 2020), (Craig N. Best preventive investments for Scotland – what the evidence and experts say. NHS Health Scotland, 2014), (Laird et al. Cycling and walking for individual and population health benefits: A rapid evidence review for health and care system decision-makers).

A healthy workforce is also an essential part of delivering inclusive economic prosperity. There is evidence that physical activity can help reduce conditions that are important causes of sickness absence, leading to improved productivity and reduced costs for employers (NICE Public Health Guideline 13: Physical activity in the workplace. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 2008). Well-designed places that enable people to travel by physically active modes have a positive impact on overall health and wellbeing levels and can potentially result in saving to the health and social care systems (Baker G et al. Quantifying the health and economic benefits of active commuting in Scotland. Journal of Transport and Health).