MSP’s have been told that in order for Scotland to meet its targets on carbon emissions, the tolls on the Tay and Forth bridges may have to be re-introduced. This shock revelation has come from Robert Black, the auditor general, who has said that the Scottish Government is facing major challenges to meet the target they have set themselves of reducing emissions by 42% by the year 2020.
He has highlighted the recent report from Audit Scotland which states that the SNP will have to reconsider introducing new policies that they have previously ruled out, such as road pricing schemes. There are road pricing schemes currently being implemented in other parts of the UK, and these include congestion charges and bridge tolls.
The SNP abolished the tolls on the Tay and Forth bridges in 2007 following a campaign championed by The Courier, but Mr Black has told the public audit committee at Holyrood that these schemes have to be reconsidered if they have any chance of meeting their emission targets. The aim is that these extra charges will encourage more drivers to switch to environmentally friendlier options to travel such as public transport.
When Mr Black addressed the committee he told them that to make steps forward in this area, policies that were discarded as unattractive in the past will need to be seriously reconsidered. He also said that if Scotland, as a society, were going to significantly increase the impact of the policy, then some of these areas would have to be look at as all the other areas of significance were already being addressed.
The Green MSP Patrick Harvie, who has previously opposed the scrapping of the tolls, has said that Mr Black is correct in flagging up such areas as road pricing schemes, as an alternative to taxes, as a way to drive down emissions. He also said that a well designed and careful approach to road pricing would benefit peoples pockets, the environment and local economies more than taxes would, and it was time for a serious debate on the idea.