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Tuesday, July 13, 1999 Published at 15:32 GMT 16:32 UK

UK Politics

Labour traffic plans 'highway robbery'

Road congestion must be tackled, the government says

Business leaders say they are "thoroughly opposed" to a proposal to levy workplace parking charges in Scotland.

Morag Kinniburgh reports on the paper
A plan to introduce tolls on a range of roads - possibly including local routes - has also been condemned by opposition parties.

The measures are contained in a discussion document published by Transport Minister Sarah Boyack on different ways to tackle Scotland's increasing traffic congestion.

[ image: Sarah Boyack:
Sarah Boyack: "Doing nothing is not an option"
The proposals include giving councils the power to charge for road use and a tax on companies for city centre parking spaces.

But the paper has been attacked by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce which says workplace parking charges would force employers to act as tax collectors.

And the Scottish National Party described plans for road tolls as a "crude revenue raiser wrapped up in a green package".

The Conservatives also dismissed the paper, saying it was "institutionalised highway robbery".

Scottish Transport Minister Sarah Boyack: "Doing nothing is not an option."
Ms Boyack launched the document - Tackling Congestion - at a transport conference in Edinburgh by warning that "doing nothing is not an option".

"Charging is but a means to an end. We are not advocating charging motorists for the sake of it," she said.

"Road user charging and workplace parking levies have their place in a balanced tool-kit of transport measures."

She said "selective use" of road charging would lead to reduced congestion, improved air quality, easier travel and new cash sources to pay for public transport.

[ image: Pollution levels are rising]
Pollution levels are rising
But Lex Gold, of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: "You do not tackle it (congestion) in the workplace where employers are already being charged.

"Indeed, if you bring in that charge, what you would effectively be doing is using the employers as a tax collector and probably having to pay for the tax themselves."

He added: "We'd be prepared to consider a toll to see the M74 completed, in other words a strategic route for Scottish business which would mean it could get its goods and services to the market quickly.

Lex Gold: Opposed to a workplace parking levy
"But if you bring in charges on motorways bear in mind that Scotland exports most of its goods by road and there would be a disproportionate charge on Scottish business."

The SNP's Shadow Transport Spokeswoman Linda Fabiani MSP said: "Labour's proposals to impose a Toll Tax on Scottish trunk roads and motorways are wrong and damaging.

"This is not being done for environmental reasons - but as a money-spinner by Labour who are now having to fill the financial black hole left after their 'penny bribe' at the last election. Tolling, for example the M8, would force traffic onto other more minor roads."

David Kerr looks at politicians' attitude to motorists
Tory Transport and Environment spokesman Murray Tosh MSP said: "What Sarah Boyack is proposing here is tantamount to turning our councils into institutionalised Dick Turpins.

"For this is nothing short of highway robbery. They are being licensed to point a pistol at drivers and command them to stand and deliver!"

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