Last reviewed 27 January 2020

Ian Barlex provides a summary of the provisions of the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019.


The ongoing devolution of transport legislation and regulation within the UK took a major step forward with the passing of the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 by the Scottish Parliament on 10 October 2019, followed by Royal Assent on 15 November. At the time of writing, regulations are awaited which will bring most of the new legislation into effect, but in the meantime, this article summarises the key provisions of the Act, and the new powers that it will provide.


The new Act implements a number of the commitments made by the Scottish Government in its 2017–2018 programme. Key objectives stated by the administration are to “help make Scotland’s transport network cleaner, smarter and more accessible than ever before” and to “deliver a more responsive and sustainable transport system for everyone in Scotland“.

Key provisions

National transport strategy

Part 1 of the Act takes effect from 15 January 2020 and requires Scottish Ministers to prepare and consult on a national transport strategy. In this, Ministers must set out their vision for future transport to, from and within Scotland; their strategy for realising that vision; and the policies that they will pursue in order to implement the strategy.

Low emission zones

The next section of the new legislation relates to low emission zones. Readers may recall that the City of Glasgow has already commenced progressive implementation of a low emission zone in the city, initially affecting only local service buses. This started in December 2018 and has now moved to the second stage of its tightening standards. Other schemes have already been mooted for the cities of Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh.

The Act defines the process with which local authorities must comply in making, modifying or revoking schemes, including a consultation stage, and the requirements with relation to Ministerial approval. It also addresses detailed areas such as enforcement, penalties and signage.

Local bus services

The third part of the Act relates to local bus services. The road service licensing system in Scotland had already started to diverge in some detailed areas from those applicable in England and Wales; for example with differing registration periods and notification arrangements. However, high level regulation was in an interim position, with previous legislation still in place north of the border which had been superseded in England by the Bus Services Act 2017 (for example involving Quality Contracts, although none were actually in place in Scotland).

Key features of the new legislation relating to bus services include:

  • new powers for local transport authorities to be able to provide local bus services using vehicles that require a PSV operator’s licence

  • provision for the introduction of Bus Improvement Partnership Plans and Schemes by local transport authorities, setting out the detailed processes that must be followed to implement these. These are effectively an equivalent to Advanced and Enhanced Partnerships introduced in England by the Bus Services Act

  • in common with the English legislation, authorities in Scotland may also introduce franchising, by the implementation of franchising frameworks and franchising agreements covering all or part of their areas

  • powers requiring operators to provide information to authorities when varying or cancelling local bus service registrations are strengthened

  • it is proposed to strengthen powers relating to the provision of information on local services, amending the Transport (Scotland) Act 2001, through regulations and after appropriate consultation.

Ticketing schemes

Part 4 of the Act is concerned with ticketing arrangements and ticketing schemes, and amends the Transport (Scotland) Act 2001 to provide for the establishment of a National Smart Ticketing Advisory Board to address national technological standards for smart ticketing. The 2001 Act is also amended to permit Ministers to be able to direct a local transport authority to exercise powers to make or vary a ticketing scheme.

Travel concessions

The Scottish Concessionary Travel Scheme continues, largely unaffected by the new Act. The one relatively minor provision in this area requires Scottish Ministers to undertake an assessment of the costs and benefits of extending travel concession schemes to community bus services and other services as they see fit.


The next three sections of the new legislation are concerned with parking.

The first of these addresses parking prohibitions, including pavement parking, double parking, and dropped footway parking; and the associated powers of enforcement and removal. The overall intention is to introduce, with certain exceptions relating to emergencies and deliveries, a national ban on pavement parking and double parking, to make pavements and roads safer and more accessible.

The next section provides for the licensing of workplace parking schemes; the powers and processes associated with making and modifying schemes; regulation by Ministers; financial provisions; and enforcement. The City of Edinburgh is proposing to use this mechanism to contribute towards the cost of improved public transport infrastructure).

The final parking section is concerned with the processes to be followed in connection with the recovery of unpaid parking charges.

Road works

The Scottish Government’s objective regarding road works is to “raise the standard, and improve the quality of road works in Scotland”. It proposes a regulatory environment which “encourages the approach of getting road works reinstatements right first time, provides better information about road works, and helps to ensure a consistent approach to safety at road works sites regardless of who is carrying them out”.

In pursuit of this, part 9 of the new Act amends earlier legislation, including the Transport (Scotland) Act 2005 and the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991; strengthens the powers of the Scottish Road Works Commissioner; and expands the role of the Scottish Road Works Register.

Other provisions

Numerous miscellaneous provisions are also included in the legislation, not all of which are concerned with road passenger transport (for example canals). It places duties on local Health Boards with relation to non-emergency patient transport, including a requirement to work with local community transport operators. It also seeks to make it easier for the Regional Transport Partnerships to manage their finances, permitting them similar powers to local authorities — to hold and operate capital funds, renewal and repair funds and insurance funds.

Summary and futures

At a time when environmental issues are at the forefront of political and public attention, this Act empowers Scotland to take control of its own future in respect of important areas including road use, urban congestion and air quality, and public bus services. The City of Edinburgh has been quick to follow with the publication of its draft city mobility plan, which incorporates extensive closure of central area roads to private cars, extensions to the tram network partly funded by a workplace parking levy, and a comprehensive review of bus services. The city aims to become carbon neutral by 2030. The detailed workings of the provisions summarised above will be set out as and when they take effect in the Scotland topic.

Hot on the heels of developments in Scotland, the Welsh Government has been consulting over its own Transport Bill; this is likely to be equally comprehensive, and further details will follow here in due course.