Schedule 1 — Road User Charging: Financial Provisions

Transport (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:30 pm on 20th December 2000.

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Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

The amendment is clearly focused in its intent, which is to ensure that moneys that are raised from bridge tolls can only, apart from work on the bridge itself, be applied directly or indirectly to facilitate the achievement of public transport policies in an authority's local transport strategy. In effect, it will ensure that, in future, moneys that are raised from bridge tolls, which are not to be used on the bridge itself and its infrastructure, can be used only to improve public transport.

The amendment would also have the effect of ensuring, for instance, that moneys that were collected from bridge tolls could not be used for the improvement of things such as the A8000 to the south of the Forth road bridge, unless such improvements could be shown to lead to the delivery of a local transport authority's public transport strategies. It cannot be right in principle for moneys that are raised from bridge tolls simply to be transferred to a road building or improvement programme, unless it can be demonstrated clearly that that would improve the implementation of a public transport strategy.

As the bill stands, it would be possible for a joint bridge authority to use the moneys that are raised from tolls for investment in the road network and normal infrastructure purposes. It cannot be right in principle for the users of the Forth road bridge to contribute through their tolls to the upgrading of the A8000: those costs should be met by the taxpayer. If additional cash is available from bridge tolls, it should be used either to improve public transport or to reduce the cost of the toll. Why should bridge users in effect pay an additional tax on their use of roads, which is not borne by other road users?

Regular users of the Forth bridge from Fife would—rightly—feel that they were being discriminated against. My amendment would introduce some common sense, although it could be argued that the tolls should not exist at all. I am pragmatic enough to realise that that is not gonna happen, at least in the short term. Investing additional toll receipts in public transport is constructive. Using them for general road infrastructure is unprincipled and discriminatory. I ask members to support my amendment.

I move amendment 5.

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat

I will pick up on the point that Bruce Crawford made about the A8000 and the role of bridge boards. I used to sit on the Forth road bridge board. That is an example of a board on which members from all councils realise that, occasionally, work on the wider road network has an impact on the bridge. Two or three years ago, the bridge board agreed that it would contribute to work that was being done on the local roundabout in Sheriffmuir leading into the road bridge, because the work was acting against the good smooth running of the bridge. Representatives of all the councils in the area agreed to that decision. The way in which the bill tries to move towards a greater sense of partnership among councils is to be applauded. That will affect bridge boards.

People should work together. The bottlenecks and other problems on the road network need not be situated in an authority's area for them to affect that authority. The problems could be in another council's area. That does not take away from the fact that the A8000 should be a trunk road, which is paid for from network funding.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The Conservatives do not support the extension of the tolling regime on the Forth bridge for any of the purposes that have been discussed, other than the existing strict purpose of maintaining the bridge. I appreciate the thinking behind Bruce Crawford's amendment. He accepts that the regime will be extended and wishes to control that extension.

I regret that we cannot support the amendment because it compromises the principle of the additional tolls, which will be unpopular and fiercely debated. We can take the view that they will happen. Sadly, there is no guidance, clarity or instruction to ensure that the minister can cap tolls at reasonable levels. Therefore, we remain deeply unhappy with the additional tolls and will not support the amendment.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat

When the Forth bridge was built, the people who negotiated on behalf of Edinburgh and the neighbouring councils felt that they were in a fairly weak position in relation to the Westminster Government. They made what was, in some ways, not a good bargain, but they got the bridge. Part of the bargain was that they paid for the approach roads. For some reason, the A8000 was left out of the deal, but the A90 was included.

Hitherto, tolls have helped to pay the cost not only of the bridge, but of the approach roads. People may say that that is wrong and that we should not perpetuate a wrong. That is one point of view. However, as Margaret Smith said, the whole network of roads is relevant. It is fair enough that tolls from people who use the bridge are used not only to support public transport—that is one of the proposals—but to finish off the network that serves the bridge. There may be similar cases in other parts of the country.

I do not see how the wording of Bruce Crawford's amendment matches his speech. I would have thought that, in the case of the Forth bridge, improving the A8000 is

"facilitating the achievement of public transport policies in that authority's local transport strategy", because public transport uses the bridge. Without huge car blockages, public transport would work better.

On this occasion, I am happy not to support the amendment.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

The amendment would narrow the uses to which a joint bridge board could put surplus toll income. That is the purpose of Bruce Crawford's amendment.

As drafted, schedule 1 allows the joint bridge board that would be set up under section 69 of the bill to use the net revenue from a charging scheme to facilitate directly or indirectly the achievement of policies in its local transport strategy—in other words, to have the same powers as a local authority with a charging scheme. Surely that is how it should be. Why should a joint bridge board be limited to funding public transport? Traffic management will be key on the Forth road bridge. It will be key to the success of the reconstituted bridge board, but under the amendment, it would be intended that the board would have no money to spend on setting up dedicated multi-occupancy car commuter lanes, on cycle lanes and on targeted improvements to the road infrastructure that directly serves the bridge. Donald Gorrie and Margaret Smith spoke eloquently and made valid and sensible points about the history of developments around the bridge.

There are massive congestion problems—more than 60,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily, many of them extremely slowly. The local authorities in the Forth transport infrastructure partnership have not asked for the amendment. They want access to the charging powers so that they can begin to tackle the ever-increasing congestion problems they face. The amendment would only hamper them in that goal. For those reasons, I ask members to reject the amendment.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

No, I am coming to my last sentence.

The amendment would consign motorists to continued frustration and delay. I ask members to reject it.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

I say to Murray Tosh that in no way does my amendment give the green light to any increases in bridge tolls. I was quite specific in what I said on that.

On Donald Gorrie's points, it should be down to the City of Edinburgh Council or the Executive to get the A8000 sorted out. It would cost £12.5 million or thereabouts. That is not much more than what the new Rangers striker, in the shape of Mr Flo, cost recently. We could remove the blockage quite quickly and start moving traffic around Scotland more easily. Why should motorists on the Forth road bridge pay more money and effectively be hit by a double whammy? They would be paying extra tax for things that should be paid for from general taxation.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

On that point, is Mr Crawford aware that back in the 1980s, a young, radical, left-wing Labour MP introduced a bill in the House of Commons to abolish the Forth road bridge tolls? That young, radical, left-wing Labour MP is now the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

That same young, radical MP promised to do lots of things on which he has not delivered. That adds to the list.

If the bill is passed today, it will not be a day on which Parliament can be proud of itself. In future, motorists who use the bridge will rightly say, "The Executive has done badly by us. The Lib-Lab partnership has done badly by us. Hell mend ye."

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

The question is, that amendment 5, in the name of Bruce Crawford, be agreed to. Are we all agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 6

For: Adam, Brian, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Grahame, Christine, Hamilton, Mr Duncan, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, MacDonald, Ms Margo, McGugan, Irene, McLeod, Fiona, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Mr Gil, Robison, Shona, Sturgeon, Nicola, Ullrich, Kay, Welsh, Mr Andrew, Wilson, Andrew
Against: Aitken, Bill, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Baillie, Jackie, Barrie, Scott, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Curran, Ms Margaret, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Fergusson, Alex, Finnie, Ross, Galbraith, Mr Sam, Gallie, Phil, Godman, Trish, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Gorrie, Donald, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Harding, Mr Keith, Harper, Robin, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Johnston, Nick, Johnstone, Alex, Lamont, Johann, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McLeish, Henry, McLetchie, David, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, Mr John, Murray, Dr Elaine, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, John, Scott, Tavish, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Thomson, Elaine, Tosh, Mr Murray, Wallace, Ben, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan, Young, John

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

The result of the division is: For 22, Against 75, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 5 disagreed to.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party 3:45 pm, 20th December 2000

Now some tidings of joy. We have made good progress and are likely to end today's business early. Although I cannot give a specific time yet, I am aiming for decision time at around 4 o'clock and, in due course, I would entertain a Parliamentary Bureau motion without notice to that effect.