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Wednesday, June 16, 1999 Published at 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK

UK Politics

Road charges 'route to progress'

Controversial tolls have been introduced on the Skye Bridge

The Scottish Cabinet is being urged to ensure revenue from its road charging proposals is invested in improving Scotland's transport network.

The government has unveiled plans for a road pricing trial scheme in Scotland in its much-heralded Transport Bill.

David Spaven, Transform Scotland, and Iain McMillan, CBI Scotland, debate road pricing
It hopes the trial will lead to the establishment of pricing on the major roads network with money ploughed back into transport.

Green transport groups say the money raised should be used to invest in environmentally friendly transport alternatives and cutting traffic on Scotland's roads.

But business leaders have also urged the government to put some money into improving Scotland's roads network and cutting congestion.

'Carrot and stick'

David Spaven, spokesman for the pressure group Transform Scotland, said: "We have to have measures which encompass both carrot and stick.

"It's important to discourage unnecessary journeys but it's also important to provide new funding schemes schemes for public transport, walking and cycling.

"The big problem that primarily local authorities face at the moment is they are cash-strapped and if we don't have a new source of revenue such as road pricing where is the money going to come from."

[ image: Road charges have been given the green light]
Road charges have been given the green light
However, Iain McMillan, Director of the Confederation of British Industry in Scotland, warned that motorists had traditionally been viewed as the scapegoats in assessing transport problems.

He said: "The motorist provides the Exchequer with many, many more billions of pounds than the Exchequer spends on roads."

Mr McMillan stressed he agreed with the government's position that too many people were using the roads, that there should be a greater role for public transport and that more freight should be moved from the roads onto the railways.

But he added: "The problem is that all of this is much easier said than done. Even if you moved a great number of people off the roads and on to forms of public transport it would not solve very, very serious points of congestion.

"We cannot leave the roads programme alone - there are some key trunk road projects in Scotland, which, if they are not completed, will cause serious problems in the supply side of the economy."

Skye tolls

The Scottish Parliament is also facing calls to consider the contentious issue of tolls on the Skye Bridge.

Campaigners met five MSPs to press their case for an inquiry into the tolls - £5.70 for a car on a single crossing.

The campaign against what are considered Europe's highest bridge tolls has gone on for almost four years and members of SKAT- Skye and Kyle Against Tolls - say they have attracted support from all over the world.

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