Transport Scotland insisted this week that the door had not been closed to Scotland’s seven regional transport partnerships (RTPs) inputting into the second strategic transport projects review (STPR2), which will decide Scotland’s future transport investment priorities.
STPR2 is being conducted alongside preparation of a new national transport strategy (NTS), which will decide future transport governance arrangements. The future of RTPs is uncertain, partly because of the emerging regional groupings of councils formed to strike city deals with the Scottish and UK governments.
Eric Guthrie, the outgoing director of Tactran, the Central Scotland RTP, told his board last week: “The RTP chairs have written to the minister expressing disappointment that the currently proposed STPR2 process appears to include no recognition of, or reference to, the existing statutory regional transport strategies [prepared by RTPs], which have been ministerially approved and have been developed collaboratively in consultation with councils, and have also informed strategic connectivity proposals and aspirations in a number of emerging city deals.”
Guthrie added: “Concern has also been expressed at the apparent intention by Transport Scotland to establish ‘regional groupings’ for the purposes of engagement on STPR2 without any apparent reference to the existing statutorily constituted RTPs.”
Asked about the concerns, a Transport Scotland spokesman told LTT: “RTPs are key stakeholders in the NTS review and STPR2. The RTPs are currently engaged in the NTS roles and responsibilities working group, which is reviewing transport governance with a view to further clarifying, and possibly modifying, existing transport roles and responsibilities nationally, regionally and locally.
“Transport Scotland is committed to working with local authorities and RTPs on STPR2. We are an early stage in considering the approach to regional engagement and, while some groups may form around existing structures such as RTPs or regional deal bodies, there is no fixed approach across the country.”
A new regional grouping for transport is being formed in south-east Scotland covering the six councils in the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland city deal: Edinburgh, East Lothian, Midlothian, West Lothian, Scottish Borders and Fife.
A joint committee is being set up to oversee the city deal and assist in regional spatial planning and transport policy. An officer level transport appraisal board is also being formed, which will include representatives of SEStran (the South East Scotland RTP) and Transport Scotland.
A new report on the city deal says the board will have a remit to “help shape transport policy, strategy, and priorities across the city region”. It will also “take a specific role in representing the city region’s interests through the reviews of the NTS and the STPR2”.
The report adds: “This group will also provide a channel for involvement in the development and delivery of the improvements to Sheriffhall roundabout.” Transport Scotland pledged £120m to grade separating the Sheriffhall roundabout on the Edinburgh city bypass as part of the city deal.
The board’s geography is smaller than that of SEStran, which covers eight authorities – the six city deal councils plus Falkirk and Clackmannanshire.
Although the NTS will determine the future of the RTPs, regional transport governance is also tied up with the reforms to spatial planning contained in the Planning (Scotland) Bill. The Bill proposes abolishing the existing strategic development plan system in Scotland, replacing it with a strengthened National Planning Framework informed by partnerships of councils.
Asked about the South East Scotland transport appraisal board, a spokeswoman for the City of Edinburgh Council said this week: “The board will work closely with the city regional housing board and with Government to influence and formalise any future regional partnership working that may emanate from the moves to regional economic partnerships as well as regional land-use planning, depending on the outcomes of Parliament’s current consideration of the Planning Bill.”
Editor's note: The words in the above article attributed to Eric Guthrie were incorrectly attributed to his successor, Tom Flanagan, in the original story. Dr Flanagan took up the position of Tactran director on 2 July, one week after the Tactran board meeting to which the report was presented. Our sincere apologies for the error.
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