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Last Updated: Monday, 17 January, 2005, 15:58 GMT
Livingstone backs city toll plans
Ken Livingstone and Jack McConnell
Ken Livingstone and Jack McConnell met in Edinburgh
London mayor Ken Livingstone has said he wants to dispel the "doom and gloom" surrounding plans to introduce congestion charging in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh City Council has come in for serious criticism over plans to levy a daily congestion charge of 2 for vehicles entering the city centre.

But Mr Livingstone said: "We had all the same doom and gloom predictions that you are getting up here now."

He was attending a conference on the charges in Edinburgh on Monday.

Mr Livingstone introduced a 5-a-day charge for entering a central zone in February 2003.

He said of the London charge: "Not only has it worked, but I would not be here if it had not worked.

"It is the success of this scheme that guaranteed my re-election last summer when Labour was losing everything all over the place."

Political agenda

Mr Livingstone shook hands with First Minister Jack McConnell on the steps of Bute House, before the pair went inside to discuss transport, London's Olympic bid and other issues of importance to their regional and devolved governments.

The city council wants two cordons, one inside the Scottish capital's ring road, the other round the city centre.

A 2 fee would apply from 0700-1830 GMT at the inner cordon and 0700-1000 at the outer boundary on weekdays.

Cars and lorries are already forbidden from travelling east along Princes Street and the council wants to extend the ban to westbound traffic.

Residents of Edinburgh will be asked for their views in a referendum next month.

Charge warning

Speaking ahead of the conference, Scottish Tory leader David McLetchie described the Edinburgh plan as the "thin end of a red wedge".

He said: "In London we now see that Ken Livingstone is proposing to increase the congestion charge from 5 to 8.

"At that rate of progress after 10 years the charge would not be 5 but 50.

"Any increase above the rate of inflation would have to be the subject of a new charging order requiring public consultation and confirmation by Scottish ministers.

"However, having seen the way that they have ignored public opposition to road tolls in two consultations already, people should be under no illusions that this will mean the Edinburgh charge remaining at 2."

Mr McLetchie warned that a "yes" vote to tolls in Edinburgh would mean a "domino effect" for other parts of Scotland.

Residents miss vote

It has emerged that thousands of Edinburgh residents are likely to miss out on next month's referendum because they have failed to declare their interest on time.

The rules mean anyone who ticked a box to avoid junk mail when filling in the electoral roll cannot take part in the vote unless they re-register.

Edinburgh City Council said it had extended the deadline to include any forms received in the post on Monday.

Almost 90% of the city's 330,000 registered voters should be eligible when the ballot takes place in February.

Fife, West Lothian and Midlothian councils have been granted permission to challenge the referendum in the courts, claiming that Edinburgh's approval of the scheme is outside its powers.

The councils claim it is unfair that some Edinburgh residents are exempt from the tolls despite living outside the charging boundary, while motorists in neighbouring councils - living just as close to the capital - will have to pay.

Profile: Ken Livingstone
09 May 03 |  Politics
Residents to miss road toll vote
14 Jan 05 |  Scotland
Way cleared for toll challenge
07 Jan 05 |  Scotland
Road toll plan given green light
18 Oct 04 |  Scotland
McConnell impressed by road tolls
06 Jul 04 |  Scotland
Retailer's fear on congestion fee
21 Apr 04 |  Scotland
Council defends road tolls
15 Jan 04 |  Scotland
Plan to ban cars gets green light
12 Aug 03 |  Scotland

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