Transport government, planning and delivery in Scotland

The Scottish Government is the executive for Scotland for areas of public policy that have been devolved from the UK government (transport, health, justice/police, environment, housing and some taxation) and is led by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP.

Transport is extensively devolved in Scotland to the Executive, with the exception of aviation and shipping. Matters that are not devolved that touch on transport include energy, trade and industry.

The only non-devolved road transport powers relate to road safety, operator licencing for commercial vehicles, driver and vehicle certification/licencing, most of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (which deals with traffic offences) and vehicle tax. Most non-devolved transport powers are for where there is a need for consistent provision of treatment and approach between Scotland and the rest of the UK. More details are here, including a downloadable report.

Transport is delivered by one executive agency (Transport Scotland) and seven Regional Transport Partnerships (RTPs)

Transport is headed by the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity (whose responsibility also includes energy), Michael Matheson MSP.  He is assisted by the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse MSP

The responsibilities of the Cabinet Secretary include:

  • Transport and public transport
  • Infrastructure investment policy
  • Cities & City Deals
  • Town centres
  • Energy and energy consents
  • Renewable energy industries
  • Connectivity, including 100% broadband
  • Cross government co-ordination on islands


This is the public body that is the executive agency of the Scottish Government, and accountable to Scottish Ministers.

The national transport agency for Scotland, delivering the Scottish Government’s vision for transport.

Its purpose is to support and advise Scottish Ministers on strategy and policy options for transport in Scotland, and increase sustainable economic growth through development of national transport projects.

Its core principles are to:

  • Strive to continuously improve activities in transport delivery, both nationally and internationally
  • Promote transport integration
  • Support transition to active and more sustainable forms of transport
  • Maintain a clear outward focus on the needs of transport users
  • Work in partnership with transport providers, communities and wider government in its planning and delivery
  • Make the most efficient use of public resources, and equip its staff to do the best possible job

The agency is made up of eight directorates:

  1. Aviation, Maritime, Freight and Canals – Promotes Scotland’s international connectivity and transport links to its remote and island communities
  2. Bus, Accessibility & Active Travel – Responsible for the Scottish Government’s policy relating to bus, active travel, smart and integrated ticketing and accessible travel
  3. Finance and Corporate Services – Supports the operation and governance of Transport Scotland
  4. Low Carbon Economy – Responsible for creating the strategic framework to coordinate the decarbonisation of Scotland’s transport system, including leading the Scottish Government’s mission to remove the need for new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032
  5. Major Projects – Responsible for design, development, procurement and construction of major trunk road improvement projects across Scotland
  6. Rail – Responsible for Scotland’s rail policy and delivery, including managing the ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper rail franchises
  7. Roads – Responsible for operation and maintenance of the Scottish Trunk Road Network, policy, safety, Intelligent Transport Systems, resilience, winter maintenance and transport planning of major events, air quality and the environment including climate change adaptation
  8. Strategy & Analysis – Responsible for transport strategy and integration, transport futures, transport analysis and strategic transport planning, including: transport governance including sponsorship of Regional Transport Partnerships, the Scottish Roadworks Commissioner, and transport components of City and Regional Growth deals


This is Transport Scotland’s public service to minimise the effects of congestion, breakdowns and unforeseen events on the trunk road network, by delivering information to drivers on the Scottish Trunk Road network through a process of ‘monitor, control and inform’.

It does this using information from CCTV, roadside hardware, the police, weather forecasts and major event management services. Information is processed in the Traffic Scotland Control Centre and delivered by its extensive website and roadside Variable Message Signs (VMS).


Regional Transport Partnerships (RTPs) are statutory bodies responsible for bringing together key stakeholders in transport planning in a region, to produce and deliver strategies that improve and enhance transport and travel.

They are designed to improve regional transport through:

  • Provision of a more strategic approach to planning and delivery
  • Building on existing joint working relationships
  • Working in partnership with Transport Scotland
  • Bringing together local authorities and principal stakeholders

Some RTPs are also responsible for the delivery of transport services. In particular Strathclyde Partnership for Transport owns and operates the Glasgow subway and major bus stations across the west of Scotland.

The seven RTPs are:

  • Shetland Transport Partnership (ZetTrans)
  • Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS)
  • North-East of Scotland Transport Partnership (Nestrans)
  • Tayside and Central Scotland Transport Partnership (Tactran)
  • South-East of Scotland Transport Partnership (SEStran)
  • Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT)
  • South-West of Scotland Transport Partnership (SWestrans)

Local roads maintenance (including bus stop provision) is the responsibility of Scotland’s 32 single-tier (unitary) local authorities

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