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Roads to Ruin: New report finds climate-wrecking roads programme due to double in size

Published 10 August 2021 by Transform Scotland

Transform Scotland

Tuesday 10 August 2021

New report finds climate-wrecking roads programme due to double in size despite Scottish Government’s Climate Emergency pledge

Transform Scotland [1] has today (Tuesday 10 August) published a new report, ‘Roads to Ruin’. The report finds that despite promises that it will tackle the Climate Emergency, Scottish Ministers intend to nearly double their spending on new roads over the next decade. This is despite transport being the largest source of climate change emissions, and the area where there has been no progress in reducing emissions for 30 years. Transform’s report comes the day after the UN IPCC sets out the scale of the effort needed to head off dangerous global climate instability.

The report is available at <>.

Colin Howden, Director of Transform Scotland, said:

“It’s now time for the Scottish Government to call a halt to its out-of-control road-building programme. Despite there being no progress in cutting climate emissions from the transport sector in thirty years, the Scottish Ministers’ capital investment plans for transport are horribly skewed towards new climate-trashing roads. We urgently need to switch investment from high-carbon roads into zero-emission public transport and active travel.

“The case for new roads was built on forecasts of unceasing growth in road traffic. But this is now an outdated and unsustainable approach. In order to meet its climate targets, the Scottish Government has committed to reducing road traffic levels by 20% over the next decade. The Scottish Ministers need to be sending Transport Scotland’s army of roads engineers for retraining so they are instead better equipped to deliver low-carbon infrastructure.

“There have been some signs of movement from the Scottish Government. At a Transform event in April, the Cabinet Secretary Michael Matheson promised that ‘The days of big road development projects are coming to an end’. Well, we need to see the Scottish Ministers follow through on this and set out exactly which roads they’re going to abandon. It would be a national embarrassment for the Scottish Ministers to fail to show leadership in this area in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow.”

The report finds:

* Road transport accounts for 24% of all of Scottish emissions, with road transport alone a larger emitter than any other sector of the economy.

* Between 2011 and 2021, the Scottish Government spent £4 billion on building new roads.

* The average cost escalation across the five largest projects between 2011 and 2021 was 86%, or nearly a doubling of costs.

* To give one example, the Sheriffhall Roundabout scheme has already experienced a cost increase of 132%, increasing the cost from £50m to £116m even before construction has begun.

* Transport Scotland’s 16 ongoing or planned projects represent a total spend of £7 billion — yet this does not include likely cost increases or several uncosted and proposed projects.

* Transport Scotland itself has reported that “motorway emissions have increased substantially since 1990, with the 2018 level 81% above that of the 1990 baseline. This increase in motorway emissions since 1990 has coincided with a substantial increase in the length of Scotland’s motorway network. Between 1990 and 2017, Scotland’s motorway network increased in length from 312km to 645km. Motorway vehicle kilometres rose from 3242 million in 1990 to 8518 million in 2018.”



[1] Transform Scotland

Transform Scotland is the national alliance for sustainable transport, bringing together organisations from the private, public and voluntary sectors. See <> for details.

[2] ‘Roads to Ruin’ report

The report is available on the Transform Scotland website at <>.

The report also sets out a detailed set of technical recommendations on: investment priorities; scheme cost management; investment appraisal; and transport governance (see report pp 35-40).

[3] Michael Matheson quote

At Transform’s ‘Moving the Vote’ event in April, Michael Matheson said, amongst other things, “The days of big road development projects are coming to an end”. See 22:00-22:05 at <>.