Edinburgh tram and Glasgow metro projects made SNP policy despite fears over funding

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson's government has backed plans for the Glasgow metro and Edinburgh tram extension
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson's government has backed plans for the Glasgow metro and Edinburgh tram extension

A METRO system for Glasgow and extending capital’s tram have been officially confirmed as Scottish Government key investment priorities for the first time despite concerns the blueprint is “pointless” without funding being promised.

Nicola Sturgeon’s administration has set out its key priorities for future transport investment by publishing the second strategic transport projects review (STPR2).

The delayed strategy, which makes 45 recommendations, will inform transport investment in Scotland for the next 20 years.

But Scotland’s Transport Secretary has been forced to delay his delivery plan of how the ambitious projects will be rolled out due to the “current huge lack of certainty” around funding.

Included in the recommendations is plans to establish mass transit systems in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Initial proposals have already been tabled for the Clyde metro, which could reach 1.5 million people in and around the city.

The report says the system could include a combination of “bus rapid transit (BRT), tram, light rail and metro rail” and “would complement the service provided by traditional railways”.

It adds that the project would “provide significant capacity to encourage switch from car use”.

In Edinburgh, the Scottish Government has also backed a mass transit system for the region, mentioning the word “tram”, despite the project’s difficult legacy.

Council bosses in the capital have set out an ambition to extend the tram network in the north and south of the city, but no funding has been allocated for the projects.

The report adds that this system would be “potentially comprising tram and bus-based transit modes including bus rapid transit (BRT) and bus priority measures”.

It says: “This would complement and integrate with the region’s current bus, tram and heavy rail networks.”

But council officials are sceptical that funding decisions will not be made until after John Swinney delivers his budget, with an update due in the New Year.

One senior council insider told The Herald the strategy was “good in policy terms”, adding that SNP ministers “embracing light rail is a big move”.

But the source warned about the lack of funding, labelling a wait until the New Year as “worrying”.

They added: “We have no idea if and how much funding might be available.

Given the big criticism is they are all talk and poor delivery and not going fast enough on the climate agenda, it’s all a bit pointless unless we get resource certainty quickly”.

SNP Transport Secretary Michael Matheson has stated that “the intention was to publish a delivery plan for these recommendations alongside the final report” but added that “due to the current huge lack of certainty around available capital budget and fiscal policy over recent months, this has not been possible as yet”.

He added: “As such the delivery plan will follow in 2023, which will include more detail on prioritisation and delivery timescales, however, I am pleased to note that work is already underway on 38 of the 45 recommendations.”

The strategy includes investigating potential ferry links between at the Sound of Harris and Barra and between Mull and the mainland and updating port infrastructure.

STPR2 recommends making funds available for ferry, rail and bus decarbonisation as well as zero emission vehicles and improving facilities for sustainable freight.

A delivery plan to provide further detail on the prioritisation of the STPR2 recommendations will follow in the new year, along with clarity over funding still to be set out.

Conservative transport spokesperson, Graham Simpson, said: “This long-awaited report is nothing more than a damp squib from the SNP-Green government.

“Once again they are letting down motorists and communities right across Scotland by kicking much-needed road upgrades and transport improvements into the long grass.

“These proposals go nowhere near far enough to address Scotland’s transport needs."

“From the ferry fiasco, to trains that do not run and roads that are in desperate need of upgrading, this is a government that are failing whatever mode of transport Scots rely on to get around.”

He added: “SNP ministers cannot keep bowing to their Green coalition partners. They have had 15 years to upgrade some of Scotland’s most critical routes, sort out our ageing ferry network and ensure communities have public transport they can easily rely on.

“They have failed on all counts and this strategic transport review contains nothing that will change that.”

Scottish Labour’s transport spokesperson, Colin Smyth, said: "Given this Government’s track record on transport, few communities will believe that the vague commitments made in a review that is already years late, will ever be delivered.

“The cost of commuting is through the roof and transport emissions remain one of the biggest threats to our climate targets – but the SNP-Green government have kicked all the big questions down the line yet again by failing to publish a delivery plan.

“We’ve had more than enough hot air from this government – we need a real plan to build a modern, affordable, and green transport system.”

Mr Matheson said: “The final publication of STPR2 represents a key milestone for transport planning in Scotland, setting out a 20-year framework for capital investment to drive the change we need to reach our ambitious – and essential – net zero goals.

“The era where catering for unconstrained growth in private car use is well and truly over. The majority of the 45 recommendations contribute directly towards achieving emissions reduction, and I’m pleased that significant progress is already being made on many of these.

“Delivering the level of investment set out in STPR2 will enhance accessibility for residents, visitors and businesses; improve connectivity with sustainable, smart and cleaner transport options; and highlight the vital contribution transport can make to Scotland’s economic growth.”