Injury Figures Suggest Walking And Cycling Culture Remains Uphill Struggle

Statistics published today by Transport Scotland show that last year 513 pedestrians were seriously injured on Scotland’s roads, a twelve per cent rise on the year before. 156 cyclists were seriously injured, a thirteen per cent rise.

Earlier this year I secured cross-party agreement in the parliament that the government should implement a rolling programme of infrastructure upgrades for pedestrians and cyclists, expand 20 mph zones in residential and shopping streets, and ensure every child has the chance of on-road cycle training by 2015.

It is clear from the figures that the government and other agencies are failing to properly tackle the sort of road conditions that are putting pedestrians and cyclists at risk. To see so many more people seriously injured while on their bike or while trying to cross a street is shocking, and I hope it makes the SNP government realise that its response has been weak – nothing more than a fig leaf.

While I of course welcome the overall reduction in casualties on the roads, I remain seriously concerned that ministers simply don’t understand the benefits of using their transport budget to encourage a walking and cycling culture in Scotland.

Medical experts, business interests and other campaigners all point to evidence that making such a shift would radically improve public health, generate more spending in local shops, cut the congestion that harms business and cut costs in the long-run for the NHS.

EYES ON THE PIES

To many people organic food might seem a luxury, especially at the moment when budgets are tight. Of course there’s a huge benefit to the environment we rely on to sustain us by choosing organic rather than food that has been sprayed with lots of chemicals and animals benefit as higher welfare standards are the norm.

But the other night I hosted a reception in the parliament where we heard the experience of Copenhagen where a steady transition over ten years has resulted in organic going mainstream and not breaking the bank. I really hope Scotland can follow that example.


The reception was for Nourish, an organisation connecting producers, growers, caterers, retailers and consumers. Those attending came from food, health and business backgrounds. The discussion was aided by a number of organic food producers bringing along samples of their products, including wonderful cheese from Connage dairy in the Highlands and amazing pork pies from Peelham farm in the Borders.

The guest speaker was Anya Hultberg from the House of Food in Copenhagen, where an astonishing 75 per cent of publicly-procured meals are now organic, and they’re aiming to get that up to 95 per cent.


Anya explained that the change has been possible because the Copenhagen municipality set tough targets, recognising the benefits not just from organic food but from reconnecting catering staff and consumers with making meals from scratch using fresh, seasonal ingredients.

The Scottish Government’s attitute to food and drink and the Copenhagen approach are, frankly, like chalk and cheese. SNP ministers only ever seem to trumpet the exports of big whisky and farmed salmon. If only they put the same enthusiasm into making local and organic meals the norm at home.

One organic vegetable producer at the event pointed out he’s had Scottish public sector kitchen staff returning produce because it had traces of soil on it! I understand why Anya described the work done in Copenhagen kitchens as educating heads as well as pans.

I have lodged a motion in the parliament pointing out how local food can boost our health, communities, environment and economy. We really could taste victory by making local, organic food the norm.

No Scottish Bids For Community Support Fund?

Disabled people are affected by employment problems more than most of us because of the many barriers they often face. I was therefore pleased to see the launch of the The Community Support Fund (CSF), a community-based package of financial and non-financial support for disabled people in the areas affected by the Remploy factory closures. This fund has been established to provide some financial assistance to Disabled People’s Organisations and Voluntary Sector Organisations working with the ex-Remploy workers.

But I’m concerned to hear from Inclusion Scotland that there have not been any applications to the Fund from Scotland. Local projects can bid to do work which:
•    Assists and supports ex-Remploy staff to participate in their local communities
•    Assists them to make the transition from sheltered employment to mainstream employment.

Given that the Edinburgh Remploy factory will definitely close, I wonder if there are projects out there which could use some of this funding. Although the pot of money is relatively small (£1.5 million), I am told that projects which have already succeeded in securing grants are being awarded tens of thousands of pounds – enough to employ a worker.

Please go for it!

Rubbish dumped at sea

Today the Herald reports on the economic as well as environmental threat posed by marine litter. I hope this encourages the Scottish Government to make the matter a priority.

 

Several years have passed since the UN Environment Programme highlighted the fact that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic in each square mile of ocean. While initiatives like Fishing for Litter are welcome, to date the Scottish Government has failed to come up with a proper plan.

In July ministers told me a consultation on a draft marine litter strategy would be held this autumn. I look forward to an announcement soon, along with a clear timescale for when the strategy will start to deliver and how it will be funded.

 

A healthy economy needs a healthy environment. To properly tackle the threat posed by marine litter we need to make it easier for people to recycle, particularly plastics; we need to make it clearer to the public how much we’re all paying to clean up our beaches and seas; and we need to do more to support communities who want to keep their local beach clean.