Just transition for the transport sector: a discussion paper

This discussion paper is intended to support engagement on a just transition for the transport sector. Building on this engagement, a draft targeted action plan and route map (late 23/24) will outline the key steps to delivering a fair transition for the sector.

Where we are now and where we need to get to


Some key features of the transport system today:

  • The majority of cars sold and driven are petrol and diesel vehicles, with hybrid and electric vehicles representing a smaller, but growing, portion of the market. Most journeys are made in cars or vans.
  • Public transport receives over £2 billion of Scottish Government funding and is slowly recovering from the pandemic. This includes over £800 million this year to support ScotRail and Sleeper services which carry 63.7 million passenger journeys last year and 98.8 pre-pandemic, and over £300 million spent each year to provide free nationwide bus travel for up to 2.6 million eligible people in Scotland. To date the Scottish Government has awarded almost £113 million to support operators to acquire 548 new zero emission buses and supporting infrastructure. Almost £190 million has been allocated to active travel.
  • Enforcement of Low Emission Zones began on 1 June 2023 in Glasgow and will commence on 30 May 2024 in Dundee, and 1 June 2024 in Aberdeen and Edinburgh. Scotland has over 3,850 public charge points in addition to the 20,000 domestic and business charge points already funded by the Scottish Government.
  • There are at least 145,000 people across the transport supply chain that potentially require new skills in order for Scotland to meet its decarbonisation targets.
  • Some of the key features of the transport system we might expect to see in 2040:
  • Roads, Streets and Pavement: We have reduced car kilometres by 20% by 2030, ensuring the appropriate digital tools and access to local businesses support local living. We have built a transport system in which alternatives to private cars are readily available. No new petrol or diesel cars or vans will have been sold since 2030. The freight industry will have removed the need for new petrol and diesel heavy vehicles by 2035. Scheduled flights within Scotland will have been decarbonised this year, with rail services decarbonised five years earlier. New safe cycle/active travel routes have also been provided into and through the countryside. New active travel infrastructure also reconnects previously cut-off urban and greenspace spaces, addressing community severance, increasing nature networks and improving biodiversity. Most roads, streets and pavements are also now resilient to the impacts of climate change such as storm surges and heavy rainfall, with nature-based solutions such as swales implemented roadside.[11]
  • Local Spaces: People will be able to use buses, trains and car shares, and walk, wheel and cycle to meet their everyday travel needs. Due to reduced demand, spaces that cars used to dominate have been repurposed and redesigned to create more access to green spaces for the public. There are now increased nature-based solutions such as trees lining our streets and new urban greenspaces replacing pavements and car parks.
  • Public Transport Networks: Our transport system is now increasingly inter-connected. Different modes of public transport such as bus and rail are linked with well-maintained walking, wheeling and cycling routes, providing increased travel options, making us less reliant on a single form of transport and reducing need to use the car to get to a mobility hub or train station. Considerable progress has been made in ensuring all public transport is safer, accessible, climate resilient and works for all types of journeys. Increased resilience in our harbours/ports ensures that our critical ferry infrastructure continues to connect island communities to each other and the mainland.

Illustrative journeys – what does this mean for different people in Scotland?

Our draft Plan needs to reflect what a just transition means for people in different circumstances and from different perspectives. For example, what does it mean for people living and travelling through city centres and from suburban areas to places of work? What does it mean in remote/rural parts of Scotland and our island communities? How does public transport and active travel availability affect different groups of people?

During the engagement period we would like to hear from transport users, businesses and transport professionals, to develop more detailed /specific case studies showing what a just transition will mean in practice from many different perspectives.

Discussion points

  • What are the key things you need to see from the transition?
  • What key parts of your experience in urban/rural/island Scotland should we bear in mind as decisions are taken about the direction and pace of the transition?
  • What are the particular issues faced by those living with a disability that need to be addressed as part of the transition?
  • What are the key issues faced by other groups (outlined in Annex B) that need to be addressed as part of the transition?

Early engagement to inform this paper

A number of workshops were held in March 2023, involving representatives from a range of stakeholder organisations. These sought to help shape the vision and aims for our Just Transition Plans.

These workshops identified a number of cross-cutting themes relevant to all sectors, including:

  • identifying the job opportunities and community benefits that can arise from the transition
  • ensuring plans are rooted in quality data to enable a holistic approach
  • embedding evidence of protected groups in order to tackle existing inequalities

Other key transport-specific issues included the need for safer and more accessible public transport, better integration of public transport modes, cheaper public transport, and improved reliability of public transport and provision of routes to rural areas.

With reference to the National Just Transition Outcomes, participants' suggestions included envisioning a country where:

  • all people can access an affordable and integrated public transport system to connect different communities and remove barriers to education, training, work and leisure opportunities
  • people can access key services and amenities through active travel, and walking and cycling are supported by business and local government
  • every mode of transport has level accessibility
  • the design of streets and cities considers the experiences of women who are more likely than men to have low incomes, be in insecure work and live in poverty, as well as being more likely than men to walk, be a passenger in a car or take a bus, and make multi-stop and multi-purpose trips[12]
  • the transport sector is resilient and adaptable, considering rising sea levels, land-slides and flooding


Email: justtransition@gov.scot

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