Use of electric cars too low for Scotland to meet 2032 target – Labour

The number of drivers switching to electric and low emission cars is insufficient for the Scottish Government to meet its target of ending the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set the target, which is eight years earlier than the UK Government’s ambition to get rid of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said 6% of new cars sold in Scotland in 2018 were ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs).

But Labour’s Colin Smyth said the take-up of such cars was “below where it has to be if we are to meet our ambition on this issue”.

The party’s transport spokesman said that while increasing the use of more environmentally-friendly vehicles was a “positive aim”, he stressed: “The Scottish Government needs to provide a long term plan, setting out in detail the measures that will be taken to deliver its target, that the need for the new petrol and diesel cars will be obsolete by 2032.”

Liberal Democrat Liam McArthur also claimed Scotland “falls well short” of what had been achieved in other countries.

He told MSPs the Netherlands had gone from having 400 charging points for electric vehicles to 18,500 in eight years, while Scotland currently has almost 1,000.

Meanwhile, he said 10% of cars on the roads in Norway were now low emission, compared to 1% in 2014.

In Scotland he said “progress has been made in terms of the the take-up of electric and other low-emission vehicles in recent years, supported by expansion of the charge point network”.

But Mr McArthur added: “Before we get carried away patting ourselves on the back, we should reflect on how this measures up in comparison to what has been happening elsewhere.”

The Liberal Democrat said: “We need to scale up our ambitions, we need to do this to meet our environmental objectives, to capture the economic opportunities, and we need to do it to deliver the social and health benefits too.”

He made the plea after Mr Smyth told MSPs that the issue of air pollution was now a “public health emergency”, with this linked to greater risk of heart failure and strokes.

He added: “From low birthweight to dementia in old age, air pollution impacts on our health throughout our lives, but has a disproportionate effect on the health of children and of older adults.

“And it contributes to Scotland’s shameful record on health inequalities, with deprived urban communities often experiencing the highest rates of air pollution.

“So, reducing air pollution is a public health necessity as well as an environmental one, and supporting the use of ultra low emission vehicles is an important part of this.”

Mr Matheson said there had been a 46% growth in registration of ultra low emission cars in Scotland over the past year.

Meanwhile at least 150 police, fire and ambulance vehicles will be replaced with ULEVs within the next 12 months, the Transport Secretary pledged.

He added: “In the past year we have supported orders for over 380 ULEVs across Scotland’s local authorities and a further 120 in public sector fleets.

“I’m pleased to confirm that the first orders of fully-electric vehicles in the Government car service have been approved and will enter service later this year.”

He confirmed Scotland was “fast approaching” the installation of the 1,000th charging point for electric vehicles.

Mr Matheson said: “This is an important milestone, meaning that the average distance from any given location to the nearest public charging point is just 2.78 miles in Scotland – the lowest in Great Britain, where the average is 4.09 miles.”