The National:

ON Saturday SNP conference delegates voted in support of a motion on ensuring that a green recovery plan is in place for the end of the pandemic.

As part of the motion, delegates supported the idea that “the provision of high quality clean, frequent, reliable, extensive and comprehensive public transport – free at the point of use – is worth more consideration as we look to tackle the climate emergency.”

Truly, the days when the SNP found itself at the behest of transport magnate and former donor Brian Souter have seemingly passed into the history books.

Free, green, public transport is a fantastic initiative, and reducing air pollution is just one of its many potential benefits.

Cities and countries that focus on public and active travel have opportunities to create truly people-driven and social landscapes in a way that isn’t possible while spending on road infrastructure remains a priority. More than that, a transport system that prioritises people’s needs over profit is also a system that doesn’t leave isolated communities stranded.

However this motion passing at SNP conference isn’t quite as momentous as it may appear on the surface, and much of that comes down to two simple words: “more consideration”.

There’s no guarantee this will become party policy; just a promise that the party will have a further think on its merits.

Of the near ninety minutes of time dedicated to discussion around the plan for a green recovery, I would be hard pressed to say that more than six or seven minutes were given to criticisms of the motion – and what criticism there was stemmed from a similar observation that the motion lacked ambition.

SNP delegate Finlay McFarlane claimed that most of the motion itself either celebrates past glories, or remains non-committal to serious future planning.

Calling for a rejection of the proposal, he noted: “It's not our duty as members to just clap through motions celebrating what has already happened.”

READ MORE: SNP plans for free public transport for all proposed to conference

Fiona Robertson, a disability justice activist, spoke in favour of the motion while reminding the conference that an effective system needed the input of disabled people from the start; particularly since those who live in rural areas may need a personal vehicle to even get to a location where they can access public transport in the first place.

Contradictorily, alongside discussions of the need for an extensive, green transport network the SNP will also be hosting another fringe event with Heathrow Airport. Even in the face of the climate emergency, the party’s commitment to a third runway remains as resolute as ever, prompting Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie to point out that: “Once again we see the SNP looking to the industries that cause the most damage for answers.”

When concrete change is urgently needed in the here and now, we don’t have time for anything but a joined up and consistent approach to transport.

That being said, if the SNP did choose to make free public transport a key tenet of its 2021 Holyrood manifesto, it’s exactly the kind of big picture policy that gets progressive Scotland excited, not unlike the celebrated baby box scheme.

After all, isn’t the future independent Scotland that we want both green and progressive? A free public transport policy would take us some way toward achieving that – but first we need more than just words from the SNP.