Record Number Of Cars On Scottish Roads

29 February 2016, 15:04 | Updated: 29 February 2016, 16:10

The Scottish Government has been urged to invest more in walking and cycling after new figures showed there are more cars than ever on the roads.

Friends of the Earth Scotland has called for stronger action to discourage people from using their cars, including 20mph zones and congestion charging.

The latest official transport figures show that in 2014 there were 2.8 million motor vehicles licensed in Scotland, the highest ever level.

A total of 44.8 billion vehicle kilometres were travelled on Scotland's roads, an increase of 2% over the year.

There was also a 9% increase in new vehicle registrations, up from 241,000 in 2013 to 262,000 in 2014, the highest number in a single year since 2007.

Almost a third (30%) of journeys to work were by public or active travel, down from 31% in 2004, while over the past five years bus passenger numbers have fallen by almost 10%.

Cycling has increased in popularity in the cities, with the proportion of Edinburgh residents mainly cycling to work up from 4% to 11.8% over the last 10 years.

Emilia Hanna, air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, praised Edinburgh council for investing in cycling and called on Scottish ministers to follow suit, saying the overall figures show Scotland is "motoring towards more air pollution and climate change''.

She said: "The Scottish Government last week passed a budget that commits less than 2% of transport cash to walking and cycling.

"This falls far short of what is required for the Government to deliver on its commitment to see 10% of journeys made by bike by 2020.

"Around 2,500 people in Scotland die early from air pollution every year, and that traffic is the key cause.

"The next Scottish Government must introduce stronger measures to discourage people from using their car such as 20mph zones or congestion charging.''

The charity also wants low emission zones established in Scottish cities by 2018 as well as 10% of the transport budget to be spent on walking and cycling.

Transport Minister Derek Mackay hailed increases in cycling as well as in rail use, with passenger numbers up 20.5% over the last five years.

He said: "One of the most encouraging signs is the fact almost three quarters of all journeys to school are made by active or public transport means.

"This provides a real opportunity to encourage the next generation to leave the car behind, while providing environmental and health benefits now.

"While the increase in car registrations reflects the ongoing economic recovery in Scotland, the Scottish Government remains focused on reducing emissions and congestion by encouraging a greater number of journeys by public and active travel.

"We are investing more than #1 billion per annum to get people out of their cars and remain committed to our shared vision of 10% of everyday journeys being made by bike by 2020.''