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IPPR - Revealed: 3 in 5 people in Scotland on low incomes worry about being able to afford transport

As the cost-of-living crisis intensifies, and as the nation looks to meet its interim targets to reduce carbon emissions, over half of people on low incomes in Scotland agree reducing reliance on cars would make Scotland fairer and greener.  

That’s according to research by leading think tank, IPPR Scotland, which says that people on low incomes want to see ‘radical change ’ to create a fairer transport system in Scotland which alleviates hardship and meets carbon reduction targets.   

Polling of people in low-income households in Scotland by YouGov for IPPR Scotland, as part of this research, has revealed that:  

  • 2 in 3 people surveyed (66%) do not believe they are being listened to in decisions about transport where they live.  
  • Just over 3 in 5 people (62%) on low incomes in Scotland surveyed worry about being able to afford transport. 

Over half surveyed (56%) agree that reducing the need for cars to travel would make Scotland a fairer country.

IPPR researchers worked with people in Glasgow with household incomes of less than £15,000 per year, and supported them to develop ideas to make improvements to transport in Scotland. These ideas, which experts at IPPR Scotland say should be enacted by policymakers in Scotland, include:   

  • Making public transport affordable, and an attractive option for everyone: Across Scotland, it should be possible to purchase a single, affordable ticket or season pass that provides access to community transport, local trains, buses and more. Scotland could follow in the footsteps of countries like Germany, who are offering their citizens a nine-euro monthly transport pass this summer in response to the energy crisis.   
  • Reimagining Scotland’s cities to prioritise people, not cars: There urgently needs to be a reduction in car use, less physical space given to cars – which spend most of the time parked[1]– and more space created for walking, cycling, public transport, and to meet other local needs such as retail or hospitality and spaces for children to play.      
  • Involving citizens, who are experts in their own lives and places, in the decision-making process: This will make decisions better and fairer. In practice, it could involve deliberative processes and forums focused on a just transition for transport. They should be opportunities to empower people who live in low-income households, ethnic minority groups, young people, and those with disabilities. 

Report author and principal research fellow, Becca Massey-Chase said:   

“We urgently need to reduce emissions from road transport in Scotland, which makes up 69 per cent of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, if we involve people on low incomes in the process, then we can also make our transport system fairer.  

“Affordable, accessible, sustainable transport supports people to work, learn, participate in their communities, and access support networks. But too many people in low incomes are locked out of these opportunities – this needs to change if Scotland is to meet the twin challenge of building a fairer future and reducing its carbon emissions”.  

Director of IPPR Scotland, Philip Whyte said:   

“People on low incomes are less likely to be able to afford a car, but more likely to suffer the cost of people driving – in terms of their physical safety and health.  

“As well as being a huge carbon emitter, our transport system isn’t working for so many people. As Scotland looks to reduce emissions from transport, an increased emphasis on policies that tackle the social injustices that our transport system currently perpetuates is sorely needed.”  

Report authors Becca Massey-Chase (in Bristol) and Luke Murphy (in London), and director of IPPR Scotland Philip Whyte (in Edinburgh), are available for interview.  


Anita Bhadani, media and impact assistant, (0141) 406-9987 (Mon – Wed)  
Rosie Lockwood, head of media and advocacy, 0758 577 2633 (Wed – Fri)  


1. The IPPR paper, ‘Fairly reducing car use in Scottish cities: A just transition for transport for low-income households’ by Becca Massey-Chase, Stephen Frost, Lesley Rankin and Luke Murphy is available at   

2. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc on behalf of IPPR.  Total sample size was 498 Scottish adults whose household income is £14,999 or less. Fieldwork was undertaken between 4th - 10th March 2022.  The survey was carried out online.

This was intended to capture the views of people from low-income households across urban areas of Scotland. The poll reached the largest number of participants possible with this methodology, split by gender and covering a range of Scottish regions and other demographics. The sample is not large enough to claim this is representative of all low-income urban residents; but can be considered illustrative of their views.   

3. People living on low incomes tend to have higher exposure to the negative impacts of transport. Their neighbourhoods are more likely to have high levels of air pollution and high traffic levels, which reduce social interaction and create harmful noise pollution. They are more likely to be killed or seriously injured on the roads – with children on foot or bike more than three times as likely to be involved in a traffic accident in the 20 per cent most deprived areas in Scotland than the 20 per cent least deprived areas. People living on low incomes are also less likely to own or have access to a car. In Scotland, only 40 per cent of households with a net annual income of up to £10,000 have access to a car, compared with 97 per cent of those with an income of over £40,000. (see report)  

4. 25% of land in Glasgow is allocated to roads. 27% of vehicle journeys in Glasgow are 1km or less. (ibid)  

5. IPPR Scotland is Scotland’s progressive think tank. We are dedicated to supporting and improving public policy, working tirelessly to achieve a progressive Scotland. We are cross-party and neutral on the question of Scotland’s independence.  

[1] In England, the average car or van is parked for 23 hours a day and only driven for four per cent of the time (Nagler E (2021) Standing still, RAC Foundation. uploads/standing-still-Nagler-June-2021.pdf)

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