TRANSPORT experts have been urged use renewable resources in Scotland’s rural areas to prioritise decarbon-isation above everything else as “the world is on fire”.

The admonition came from chair of the charity Scottish Rural Action (SRA), Amanda Burgauer, who yesterday told delegates to a Glasgow conference that there was “no time to waste”.

Holding up the front page of an English tabloid, which pictured a young boy swimming in the sea in a 22C heatwave, she said: “Lovely, but that is actually 700 miles north of the Arctic Circle and at this time of year the temperature should be 8C, not 22.

“So gradual change is no longer an option … What we need now and for all the tomorrows to come is urgent, transformative, decarbonised innovation across our transport system, harnessing the phenomenal renewable energy resources of Scotland’s rural areas and making that energy available and accessible to rural people.”

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Burgauer was addressing a Scotland Policy Conference event considering the development of the country’s national transport strategy.

She said her greatest fear was that the race to decarbonise transport would be “urban-centric” and would cut off rural areas even more from opportunity and viability. But, she added, the solution was glaringly obvious: “Rural Scotland is the breadbasket of our nation’s renewable energy sources.

“Rural Scotland’s hills and waves are where we start powering our net-zero transport revolution. And the time to start was actually 30 years ago.

“Now the world is on fire, perhaps we can prioritise decarbonisation above everything else with this extraordinary renewable resource embedded in our rural communities.

“Scotland is uniquely placed to take a global lead on investment in net-zero rural transport initiatives, infrastructure and innovation. There’s no time to waste – let’s get it done now.”

Burgauer said rural Scotland comprised 98% of the country’s landmass and almost a fifth of its population, which became most energised talking about transport.

However, urban infrastructure had an effect on rural and a differentiation had to be made between “remote” and “accessible” rural areas.

“I live an hour from a town with just over 2000 people and 10 years ago that would have been classified as a remote rural town,” Burgauer said.

“But with improvements in road infrastructure and rising house prices in Edinburgh, that small rural town has now become a dormitory town because the people who live there work and shop elsewhere.

“When we start to measure productivity in the old way we are measuring the productivity of those people in the place where they work, which might be an hour away from where they live, where they are actually enjoying ... living in the countryside, cheaper housing ... but we’re not acknowledging their contribution when we look at the rural economy.”

Rural Scotland was facing some “incredible challenges” she said, some of which could be transformational, such as driverless vehicles for delivery and passenger transport.

She added that evidence suggested success brought with it some unintended consequences: “The North Coast 500 is a fantastic opportunity for tourism, bringing lots and lots of visitors to Scotland ... not if you live somewhere on that route and you need an ambulance to get to you, because it is single track and ... the tourists don’t understand what single-track roads are for, how they work and who should pull over and give way.

“The other one is the Borders railway, but one of the negative consequences is it has put incredible pressure on wages for local employers and has had a quite damaging retail effect because people can now jump on the train and go to Edinburgh to shop.”