‘IF you build it, they will come” – the famous line uttered by Kevin Costner in the film Field Of Dreams may have been about baseball, but it also aptly describes the way Scotland plans its road network.

We’ve known since the 1960s that if you build more roads they fill up with more cars, yet that is exactly what is playing out in Scotland 50 years later.

The full scale of increased traffic into Edinburgh was revealed this week, as it emerged just how many more cars there are on the road since the Queensferry crossing was built.

We were told in 2017 that any growth in transport over the Forth as a result of the new bridge would be in public transport and cycling. Instead, we’ve had a million more car journeys in the past year alone. Astonishingly, Transport Scotland said they’d forecast for even more.

The National: The Red Arrows fly past during the official opening of the new bridge across the Firth of Forth

Edinburgh’s transport and planning manager Ewan Kennedy told Holyrood’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee that commuter traffic has increased to 60,000 cars crawling into Scotland’s capital every morning.

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The gridlock on the A9 isn’t just miserable for drivers. It also causes disruption and pollution for all the communities that road passes through, like Crammond and others.

I agree with the transport experts who gave evidence to MSPs. This traffic is “not the direction we want travel to go in”, they said, especially considering we are in a climate emergency.

And they were also right to highlight the fact that just installing priority bus lanes is not enough. Public transport and active travel need to be the easiest, most reliable and convenient choice for commuters. That requires better buses and trains, a good quality cycling network and, when you get into the town, a pleasant place to walk in.

When it comes to the Queensferry Crossing, we shouldn’t be surprised that a major road infrastructure project led to more cars on the road. We’ve known about that particular cause and effect since the 1960s.

With the Queensferry Crossing carrying a million extra cars, whole housing estates are being built in Fife designed around access to the M90. It is completely unsustainable. That’s why it is infuriating that the City Region Deals, those investment projects designed to breathe new life into our cities and support surrounding communities, appear to be making those same 1960s mistakes.

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These deals, a brainchild of the architect of austerity George Osborne, are jointly funded by Scottish and UK governments and were heralded to be “focused on long-term strategic approaches to improving regional economies”.

In reality though, so far, a big part of the investment has been about growing capacity in roads and airports, reinforcing the status quo.

The National: Keith Brown

When he was economy secretary, Keith Brown said the city deal proposals for Edinburgh would help the whole region “to be one of the fairest and most inclusive areas in the country”.

Brown isn’t on the frontbench anymore, so he won’t have to explain why building a spaghetti junction on Edinburgh’s city bypass will make Edinburgh fairer or more inclusive. He doesn’t have to explain how it will help people in Kelso or Kirkcaldy. One thing we do know, if we’ve learnt anything from past mistakes, is it won’t reduce traffic congestion. It will worsen it.

The Queensferry Crossing is the kind of infrastructure politicians like standing in front of with a hard hat. Even though it has failed in most of its objectives, it is at least an attractive addition to the Forth bridges vista.

A spaghetti junction at Sheriffhall would be an ugly throwback to a time when we were obsessed with roundabouts and flyovers, a time when we built a motorway through Glasgow. They tell us it will reduce congestion. We know it won’t.

If we’re going to have city region deals, it’s time they embraced the priorities of the 21st century, improving the lives of our communities and tackling the climate emergency.

That means bringing reliable public transport back to our remote communities and making our cities clean and green.

Imagine what the £120 million being used to increase traffic in Sheriffhall could be used for instead.

Segregated cycle paths, bus lanes and park-and-rides would mean that if someone wanted to go to Dalkeith country park or Butterfly world, getting there could be part of the pleasant experience.

The National:

The technologies and innovation being developed in Midlothian would be supported by the transport of the future rather than the poor, polluting systems of the past.

This is why I have been so frustrated with the Scottish Government’s miserable investment in active travel. They have treated walking and cycling as an afterthought, instead of placing it in the centre of how we plan the layout of communities, as has happened in our more forward-thinking European neighbours.

We know that expanding roads guarantees more car use, and that investing heavily in the cleaner and more affordable alternatives leads to lower carbon and more pleasurable travel choices. We just need to convince the transport secretary that his policies of the past are no longer fit for purpose. Not only are they economically illiterate, but in the face of the climate emergency, they’re positively dangerous.